Communication encompasses much more than church mailboxes these days. Many churches and youth groups now have e-mail Listservs and Facebook pages. Electronic communication—including but not limited to e-mail, social media, texting, and cell phone conversations—provides a unique challenge and opportunity for those working with children and youth.
Dove's Nest Blog
By Brenda L. Yoder, LMHC
A couple of years ago, I talked with a former victim of sex trafficking at a faith-based conference. She briefly told me her story. She was raised in the church, was in a youth group, and was trafficked by her brother to his friends and others.
Trafficking isn’t something confined to the brothels or slums of southeast Asia. It’s commercial sex with a child, and it’s in high demand in the United States. Victims and consumers are in our neighborhoods. Rural. Urban. Suburban.
Dove’s Nest’s website, which provides numerous resources and curriculum sets regarding abuse, is a starting point as we consider educating youth about sexuality and safety. But what other tools are out there, particularly for high schoolers?
Here’s a wide-ranging list for churches to consider:
By Trudy Good
Dove’s Nest has heard from churches that are struggling with situations of abuse in which an adolescent is the offender. These situations are terribly painful and complicated, but not terribly uncommon. An estimated 23 percent of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of eighteen.
By Paul Schrag, editor of Mennonite World Review
“Children are the living letters we send into a time we will never see.”
This quote describes an adult’s sacred duty to care for a child. It is cited in Circle of Grace, a sexual-abuse prevention curriculum produced by the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb. In 2011 a donor provided funding for a copy of Circle of Grace for every Mennonite Church USA congregation.
By Brenda Yoder
Your children are the first generation with access to technology that opens doors of unlimited possibilities, but also unlimited dangers. Kids are vulnerable to online predators and harassing behavior from peers and adults. As parents, we have to be diligent about teaching social media safety. How can you keep your kids safe?
1. Don’t allow your children to put their phone numbers or address on a social media profile or “check in” at a location.
2. Teach your children to make wise choices over who “friends” or follows them in social media.
By Beth Swagman
Neffsville Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania produced a Children’s Ministry Handbook in addition to their Child, Youth, and Vulnerable Adult Safety Policy and Volunteer Protection document this year.
From this accessible handbook comes this Code of Ethics, which is a wonderful guide for all of us working with children.
By Anna Groff
In addition to protecting children, churches ought to be aware of the need for safety for all vulnerable persons, including—but not limited to—children and adults with disabilities and the elderly.
Many studies point to the unfortunate truth that children with chronic medical conditions or disabilities are at increased risk for abuse and neglect.
By Carolyn Holderread Heggen
Here are ten ways that churches can prevent child abuse. This content is extracted from a chapter of Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches by Carolyn Holderread Heggen (1993). Holderread Heggen, PhD, is a psychotherapist specializing in trauma recovery. Although she spent most of her clinical and academic career in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she currently lives in Corvallis, Oregon, and is an active member of Albany Mennonite Church.
1. Name the sin of abuse: Unnamed abuse cannot be healed or stopped. Adequately named, we can begin to exert dominion over this evil.
2. Dispel the notion that what happens in homes is private and no one else's business: Children need opportunities within the congregation to talk about fears or concerns they have.
By Trudy Good
Safe Church policies and procedures should include two important efforts:
First, Safe Church is about preventing abuse of children and vulnerable members.
Second, Safe Church is about protecting children and vulnerable members when there is a known potential threat.
A potential threat occurs when someone who has a known history of inappropriate or illegal sexual behavior is participating in the congregation or wants to participate in the congregation.