“Safe Sanctuaries” is the name United Methodists commonly give to their efforts to make programs welcoming and safe, to reduce the risk of abuse or mistreatment, and to build a culture of respect and healthy boundaries.
- Since 1966, there has been a push to encourage every church to have a Safe Sanctuaries® policy and procedure. It has been amended and reapproved consistently since then. See ¶3084 in the 2016 Book of Resolutions for the language that is most current.
- See also WI Conference 2011 Journal, action item #26; and WI Conference Policy 160.2.0 for details on how this is applied in Wisconsin Annual Conference.
United Methodist Congregations in Wisconsin should:
- have a written policy that aligns with best practices
- educate and train members and volunteers about the policy/practices
- implement the policy/practices consistently
- review and update the policy regularly
Writing a Policy
The purpose of a Safe Sanctuaries policy is to minimize risk of harm being done to vulnerable persons, or of false claims of wrongdoing. It is impossible to eliminate all risk, so our goal is to minimize the risk to an acceptable level. We also strive to create a culture of healthy relationships, where we establish and respect appropriate boundaries.
Sections to include:
- Screening (background checks and references)
- Practices and Procedures
- Responding to Incidents
- Reportable Incidents
Education and Training
If you are sufficiently trained and knowledgeable about these practices, you may provide the training for your congregation. You may also call the Conference Office to work with staff to bring a training to your congregation/circuit/district. We are hoping to unveil live online trainings in 2019. A schedule for trainings will be posted on this website when it is available.
Why can't I just copy/paste your policy?
Every congregation has different needs, based on your specific programs, staffing, and building space. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; feel free to borrow language from other policies. But it’s best to take the time to consider your needs rather than simply copying an existing policy.
Will you tell me if my policy is okay?
Conference staff members are well trained for their positions but are not lawyers. We can help you understand best practices. We can suggest if we see things missing that others usually include. If you have specific legal questions, you will need to work with your own lawyer. (Check to see if you have a member who is able to provide this service for you.)
Our youngest member is 46. Why do we need a Safe Sanctuaries policy?
You may not need the policy at this specific moment, but you don’t want to wait until after kids walk in the door to write one. Many parents will not consider attending a church without these policies. Additionally, Safe Sanctuaries policies apply not only to vulnerable children, but also to vulnerable adults. Many churches who do not have children in regular attendance offer important ministry with older adults. Further, it is the recommendation of the denomination, the WI Conference, and our church insurance provider to have a written policy. The best time to write a policy is yesterday. The second-best time to write one is now.
- Discipleship Ministries
- All the Safe Sanctuaries books, written by Joy Thornburg Melton. Available through all major retailers. To get the broadest coverage with the fewest purchases, consider these three books:
Safe Sanctuaries Anniversary Edition
Safe Sanctuaries – Older Adults
Safe Sanctuaries in a Virtual World
- Your Conference Staff:
Director of Connectional Ministries