Building a Safe Ministry Culture Together
One of the great scandals of the last few decades, and a key named reason by many as to why they do not want to consider the claims of Jesus, has been the shocking failure of many Christian denominations to respond appropriately to abuse of children and others within our organisations. This was made most public in the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. While the issue is by no means one only for churches, there is a particular failure for us to consider when Christians ought to be known as those who are especially protective of the most vulnerable.
One positive thing to come out of all this is a much-improved understanding of what we call “Safe Ministry” (you may also have heard of the term “Safeguarding”). Many people will understand Safe Ministry to be about making sure that children are not abused. While that’s part of what’s going on, we need to have a wider sense of Safe Ministry as caring for any vulnerable person; not just children but also those whose varied circumstances (such as a disability, or particular social situation) make them vulnerable.
Taking Safe Ministry seriously flows from Jesus’ basic command to love one another. Love doesn’t just complete a list of “tick-box” items in order to know if it has done what’s right (that’s the way of the Pharisees) but it is always asking “what more can I do?”. Love looks at those in most need of being cared for and goes above and beyond to protect them. The greatest example of this, as I’m sure you immediately know, is Jesus’ death on the Cross on our behalf.
So what can we do to build a Safe Ministry culture together?
1. Get informed and trained
Safe Ministry training is mandatory for anyone who’s ministry involves contact with children or young people. But there’s nothing to stop anyone going through Safe Ministry training. It’s very cheap ($20) and provides an excellent education about not just the risks to vulnerable people but the great ways we can massively reduce those risks. The more of us that are trained, the safer St John’s will be for everyone. Safe Ministry training works like herd immunisation – the more of us who are trained, the more we work together to minimise any possibility of abuse in our community.
Safe Ministry training also helps us love and care for those who we come across in all sorts of ministry. Over the course of a week at St John’s people will volunteer in diverse ministries such as serving refreshments, teaching English to adults and helping maintain our facilities. Each and every one of these ministries will involve meeting with others who may be vulnerable. Safe Ministry training switches us on to be more aware of what is going on and much more prepared to know how to respond appropriately as we all seek to love others just like we would love ourselves.
2. Speak up or reach out for help
It could be that you experience something at St John’s that is not appropriate. It could be as simple as thinking “something’s not right here” or a situation that you know needs to be responded to but you’re not sure how.
Please know that you can always reach out to any member of our pastoral staff, even if you’re worried that what you have to say might seem silly or too small to bother with. If you are concerned about something that’s been done by one of our many ministry volunteers or staff then you should approach someone who has responsibility for them. A concern, for example, about a Kids Church leader should be taken to Carmen (our Children’s Minister) or someone responsible for Carmen – myself or our Senior Minister Bruce. You should take a concern about me to Bruce. It might even be a concern about Bruce himself (and Bruce would be the first to say this) which could be taken to one of our wardens or to one of the Senior Associate Ministers.
A concern about one of the staff can also be taken directly to the Office of the Director of Safe Ministry – all the details are on their website. You can be assured that what you say will be taken seriously and responded to in the correct way. It might even be that this article has raised some issues for you – please do reach out if you need to.
A Safe Ministry culture is something that we all build together, each of us playing our part to make sure that we are caring for the vulnerable amongst us. Over the next months we’ll be looking to elevate this topic in different ways. As this happens please do consider what your part is in loving those around you as together we seek to make St John’s a safe place as possible. For everyone.
David Ould / Senior Associate Minister
St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta
PRAY: Give thanks for the ministry God has entrusted to us here in Parramatta. Pray that we would share in the responsibility to create a safe and nurturing environment. Pray for the courage to speak up against any form of abuse, neglect or harm. Pray for wisdom to recognise the needs of those who may be vulnerable, and the compassion to respond with care and support.
Join us this Sunday for our Sunday services. We meet at 8am, 9:30am, 11am and 5pm at the Cathedral – and online at 11am. Check out out Sunday services page for more information on our face-to-face services.