Child safety is such a high priority for churches that a recent workshop promoting child-safety policies filled to capacity, forcing the scheduling of a second one.
Beth Swagman, director of the Christian Reformed Church’s Abuse Prevention ministry for the past 12 years, said she has never seen so much interest in her annual workshop on creating child-safety policies.
More than 100 people from West Michigan churches attended the two workshops. Swagman believes the increased interest is a sign of the times. “It’s a matter of more things being reported in the news and people becoming aware and saying, ‘We can’t pretend this isn’t happening anymore,’” she said.
The Abuse Prevention office’s mission is to reduce the risk of abuse in churches, and the first step is to write a child-safety policy—something many Christian Reformed congregations have done. “Church programs have become safer for children,” said Swagman, “and the church as a whole is more compliant with the law.”
The workshops offered an intensive walkthrough of the policy-creating process. “I came away feeling a real responsibility to prevent anything from happening to the kids,” said Andrea Lubberts, nursery coordinator at Roosevelt Park CRC, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Donna Neevel of Immanuel CRC, Kalamazoo, Mich., said the workshop gave her a firmer grasp on the legal ramifications of her church’s policy. Her church now plans to have that policy reviewed by an insurance company and an attorney.