An Introduction to Safe Sanctuaries: Protecting Our Children 

Safe sanctuaries is a concerted effort by the local churches, districts and Annual conference to reduce  the risk of all forms of abuse to children and youth and to protect adult workers (paid or volunteer) who interact with our young people.

I remember a safety campaign a few years back sponsored by the fire department and law enforcement agencies in my hometown which was started to protect children walking home from school or playing in the neighborhood. The goal of the program was to identify safe homes in the neighborhood where children who felt threatened by a stranger or who needed help could run to in their time of need. The leaders in the community recognized that children needed to feel safe and everything possible needed be done for their protection. It’s this same concern that as prompted the United Methodist Church (at large) to vote on and approve a Safe Sanctuaries policy to be designed and in place in all local church United Methodist Churches. The Holston Conference timeline for these guidelines to be in place was no later than the church’s Charge Conference 2005.

The following is a statement from the Holston Conference as to the importance of the Safe Sanctuaries Program:

For Holston Conference, the physical and emotional safety, as well as the spiritual growth of all God's children and youth, is important. We as a Conference are committed to the holistic well-being of each child, youth, and adult entrusted to us. We believe that we as a Church must take reasonable steps to love and protect our children and youth while they are involved in programs and activities provided in and by our local churches, districts, and our Conference. In addition, we must take reasonable steps to love and protect those adults who work with our children and youth…the Holston Conference is committed to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ so that each child will be... "surrounded by steadfast love, established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal" (Baptismal Covenant II, United Methodist Hymnal, p. 44). This effort at Safe Sanctuaries demonstrates our commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of all our children and youth.

A special task force developed a plan geared specifically for the needs of Harrison UMC. On December 4 2005, our church officially adopted a Safe Sanctuaries policy. This means some changes for our church both at the personal and program levels. Some of these changes may make some of us uncomfortable and complicate some of our existing and planned ministries. We could focus on these things, but I hope you will remember first and foremost why Safe Sanctuaries is important: we are protecting our most valuable resource- our children.

For more information visit the Holston Conference website at:     http://holstonconference.org/safesanc/safesanc-home.html