Getting Started with Safe Sanctuaries

Resolution #3084 in the 2016 Book of Resolutions, originally adopted in 1996, calls on local churches to "develop and implement an ongoing education plan for the entire congregation and its leaders on the reality of child abuse, risk factors leading to child abuse, and strategies for prevention."

In North Alabama,  this plan is part of Safe Sanctuaries, which helps local churches, districts, and annual conference organizations develop and implement policies and procedures for child protection. Whether you're developing a policy for the first time or updating an existing policy, we're here to help you do your part to ensure your church or organization is prepared to confront the realities of abuse and take steps to protect those within your care.

Who needs a Safe Sanctuaries policy?

All local churches, as well as extension ministries either controlled by or receiving funding from the Annual Conference, are required to have a Safe Sanctuaries policy. 

The good news is that Safe Sanctuaries does not have to be a complicated program. For some smaller churches without active children and youth ministries, the policy may fit onto a single page. For larger churches, in many cases creating or updating a Safe Sanctuaries policy is as simple as putting on paper what you're already doing.

The Safe Sanctuaries Team

Regardless of which policy option a church chooses, Safe Sanctuaries should not be the job of any one person in a congregation (including the pastor), but should involve a team. This helps to ensure that the entire congregation is represented in the policy, and can bring valuable insights to the process of developing the policy. People to consider including on this team may include:

  • A member of the pastoral staff
  • A representative from the Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations Committee
  • A representative from the church Trustees
  • Representatives from age-level ministries
  • The church's legal counsel
  • The church's insurance agent
  • Others in the church who have an educational or professional background in disciplines such as law, social work/counseling, insurance, law enforcement, and others

This list is not all-inclusive, nor will all of these individuals be on each team. Rather, these are suggestions for the types of people you might want to consider including.

Policy Options

Option 1: The Model Safe Sanctuaries Policy

The North Alabama Conference has developed a model Safe Sanctuaries policy that can be adopted directly by churches and ministries. While it may be appropriate in a variety of settings, it is designed primarily for local churches and ministries that have limited or no children's or youth ministries on a regular basis. Specifically, churches for whom the model policy may be appropriate:

  • Have children/youth programming that is generally limited to weekly events at the church facility (i.e. Sunday School, UMYF, etc.)

  • Do not regularly transport children/youth or have overnight events

  • Do not have a school-like setting (daycare, preschool, mothers’ day out, etc.)

  • Do not have substantial ministries specifically for vulnerable adults

Please note that, in adopting the model policy, it is the responsibility of the church to ensure that it is appropriate to the church's context. If modifications are needed, churches are encouraged to consult a Safe Sanctuaries district trainer.

For more details and to access the model policy, click here.

Churches that have adopted the model policy can complete their training requirements using the Conference's online Safe Sanctuaries training. This page will be updated with details about that training once available.

Option 2: Custom Safe Sanctuaries Policy

For churches with more advanced Safe Sanctuaries needs, a policy specific to that church should be developed. Churches who need a policy specific to them are encouraged to contact a Safe Sanctuaries district trainer for guidance.

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