On Saturday, April 23, Safe Church staff joined with ministry staff and officebearers from around classes Niagara and Hamilton to take a new training course called The Power to Do Good: The Use and Misuse of Power in the Church.
Throughout the morning, the group reflected on the institutional and relational power that ministry leaders and officebearers have in the church. They also spent time discerning how they could use their power to support the flourishing of congregations and church members.
“We talked about different ways and reasons ministry leaders might violate the trust that has been given them and misuse their power to bring harm to their congregations,” said Becky Jones, volunteer and communications coordinator for Safe Church Ministry. “We also talked about what both ministry leaders and council members can do to establish good practices of accountability, self-care, and boundary setting as a way to foster cultures of goodness that resist abuse.”
One of the participants was Wendy de Jong, stated clerk of Classis Niagara, who also served as Safe Church coordinator for Classis Niagara from 2019 to 2021. “The Safe Church staff covered a lot of material in a short period of time, keeping us on track and engaged,” de Jong said. “Particularly worthwhile was reading the Code of Conduct out loud as a group and, through that, recognizing just how important this document is and can be for our churches. A number of the participants commented that they were considering a similar reading at the first council meeting of each new season.”
Other participants agreed. In a feedback form, one participant who serves as a deacon noted, “I learned a lot.The power audit was a surprise to me. I didn’t realize that I have power. That was a good reality check.”
Another participant added,“I really liked the CRC Code of Conduct. I think it would be a good idea to implement it and to go through it once a year with each member of council reading a portion.”
As a denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America wants churches to be places that not only prevent abuse but also support the healing of those who have been affected by it. The Power to Do Good training for ministry leaders is an important part of this work.
This training is available for anyone interested in learning more about institutional power and how to use their power for good in the church. This free online course can be accessed through our denominational learning platform (crcna.org/learn) or through our Safe Church website (crcna.org/SafeChurch). It also can be offered as an in-person training for groups of 20 or more.
In addition to The Power to Do Good, Safe Church ministry provides other forms of training for your congregation or classis related to abuse of power:
- A 60-minute training for church visitors and councils dealing with situations of abuse by ministry leaders. The training covers abuse, its impact, and the process for handling abuse allegations well. This training is currently available through Zoom. By late fall, it will be available in video format.
- Training in restorative practices. Safe Church, the Office of Social Justice, and Pastor Church Resources are partnering with FaithCare of Shalem Mental Health Network to form a team of people qualified to offer training in restorative practices. For more information, see crcna.org/safechurch/restorative or email Eric Kas at email@example.com.