My New Role and Signs of Hope

By Anna Groff, Executive Director

When I share with people about my new role with Dove’s Nest, I hear everything from, “I thought child protection policies were required for all churches”—from someone in Pennsylvania, a state with new laws for all volunteers working with children—to “I didn’t know abuse happened in churches.” 

While we all wish the second comment were true, we know it isn’t.

For my birthday in July, my best friend gave me Nicholas Kristof’s new book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity.

One chapter began with this sobering story: “When Becca was four years old, her dad was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. Her mom was left with five children and was grateful as the church and community stepped forward to help. Among those who assisted was a family friend. Once, during a spaghetti dinner at church, this man led Becca to an upstairs room, close the door, and sexually abused her. ‘I just remember thinking, If I drop this plate of spaghetti, I’ll get into so much trouble.’ So, she put up with it—and the man continued to abuse her for the next two years.”

And, unfortunately, this kind of story is more common in our churches than we would like to imagine.

However, there are many, many signs of hope in the area of increased child safety and child protection in churches. I’m only a few weeks into my role with Dove’s Nest, but I’ve already seen God at work in a variety of settings:

·      I heard from a pastor whose church has a protection policy stating that only children initiate touch and they can say “no.” When a man wanted to shake hands with an elementary school girl after church, she was empowered to say, “No, I don’t know you.” The man still reached out and tickled her. A parent witnessed this and reported it to the pastor, who is taking the time to address this situation.

·      I worked with Jeanette Harder, cofounder and board president of Dove’s Nest, in consulting with another pastor who is dedicated to creating an effective child protection policy that fits the specific needs of the church: the size and layout of the building, the church’s ministries in serving local children, and more.

·      A Sunday school teacher in Pennsylvania taught the Circle of Grace curriculum to middle school children two years ago. He told me the children responded well to the material and the church continues to use it each year. 

I am blessed to have had a wonderful church experience as a child and youth. I want this for all children, and I believe Dove’s Nest plays an essential role in keeping children safe in church and beyond. 

Please consider getting involved in Dove’s Nest through utilizing our online resources for creating a child protection policy for your church, inquiring about the Circle of Grace curriculum (provided to all Mennonite congregations for free), or making a monetary gift to Dove’s Nest. 

We need your support, and I would love to hear from you. 

Anna Groff began as executive director of Dove’s Nest on August 1. She works from her home in Tucson, Arizona, where she lives with her husband, Brian Miller, and one-year-old daughter, Ella.