"Let the children come to me. Don't stop them!
For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children." (Luke 18:16 NLT)
The 2020 Keeping CMC Safe (KCMCS) Training
At Columbus Mennonite Church, we want our children to be safe. One way that we support our children is through our child protection policy known as Keeping CMC Safe (KCMCS). This policy was adopted in 2006 and updated in 2010 and 2019.
As a part of the implementation of this policy, Leadership Team encourages all attendees to participate in the yearly training that is offered. We want all adults and youth to be familiar with our policy and be aware of other ways that we can keep our children and vulnerable persons safe.
This year’s training utilizes our April 26th Sunday service which was dedicated to KCMCS and coincided with Child Abuse Awareness month.
If you viewed the service on April 26th, move on to Steps 2 & 3, otherwise please view the video below before moving on to steps 2 and 3.
After completing all 3 steps of the training, move on to step 4 which will instruct you on how to complete the Participation in Training form which is located at the bottom of this page.
If you have any questions or want to talk about this training or the KCMCS policy, please contact Mim Halterman, KCMCS Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 1. Please watch or read the sermon presentation by special speaker Kathy Wiens.
We welcome Kathy Wiens as our speaker today. Kathy holds graduate degrees in education and mental health counseling. She is a licensed professional counselor and a trauma recovery coach. Since 2012 she has worked with churches teaching child protection/sexual abuse prevention classes. She is a speaker and blogger for Dove's Nest, board chair for Into Account and Support Specialist for GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments). Her childhood memoir, Bars, Dumps and Other Childhood Hangouts was published in 2013. Kathy has been married to Tim for 34 years and they have two adult daughters.
Sermon | Creating Safety for Children and the Vulnerable | Katherine B. Wiens – Dove’s Nest Speaker | April 26, 2020
Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to your congregation on the topic of creating safety for children and the vulnerable. Before I get into the sermon, let me give a trigger warning.
Trigger Warning: Sexual violence and safety is a difficult topic for most people. But if you have experienced abuse in your past, it is usually even more difficult. This talk may be triggering for some of you. If you feel uncomfortable by the things shared in this sermon, please take care of yourself. One easy way to do this is to just get up and move around. You can also ground yourself by feeling your feet on the floor and feel the chair you’re sitting in. Another grounding technique is to think about what you are hearing and seeing in the present moment; name colors in the room you’re in and recognize the sounds you are hearing. You could also put something cold on your face like an ice cube or washcloth. Another idea is to hold something hot, like a cup of coffee or tea, and feel the heat on your hands. A trigger is something that pulls us back into the abuse we experienced in the past. Often times this happens on an emotional level, and it might be difficult to recognize. So trust the feelings that come up. Grounding techniques are important because they help you connect with the present moment and get out of the past.
What Is Church
First, let’s think about what we want a church to be. Church is a place to find God.
Church is a place to connect with others.
Church is a place to feel loved and valued.
Church is a safe place. Safety is the foundation for these things. Without safety, children and adults will not fully be able to find God, connect with others, and feel loved and valued.
But what happens when the church is not a safe place? What happens when there is an abuser in the church?
This is a quote from an interview Anna Salter did with a perpetrator. (Anna Salter is a clinical psychologist who has an emphasis in sex crimes. She has treated the victims of sex crimes, and also has studied offenders. She has published several books and peer-reviewed articles on sex crimes, given many keynote speeches to professional and law enforcement groups, and consults with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.)
“I considered church people easy to fool. . . . They seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people. . . . And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.”
This is a perpetrator who worked with youth in a church. A video of this interview can be found on YouTube by searching Anna Salter. If you do search for this, please be aware that some of the information on this video is disturbing.
Churches can also be unsafe when we believe we know who abusers are and who they are not. It’s normal to believe that abusers are not like us. That’s why the concept of “stranger danger” is compelling. We want to believe those who harm children and the vulnerable are outside of our churches, they are not us. We want to believe we can keep children safe by keeping them away from people who look a certain way or do certain things.
But . . . these individuals are/were part of Mennonite churches, and they are credibility accused of sexual abuse and listed on the MAP (Mennonite Abuse Prevention) list.
We don’t want to believe that the person sitting next to us on Sunday mornings in church could be sexually abusing children or other vulnerable adults.
But they are in our churches, because our churches are their churches.
The Department of Justice estimates that on average there is one child molester per square mile in the United States (Predators, pg x).
93% of children knew their attacker:
34.2% of attackers were family members and
58.7% were acquaintances.
Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the child.
We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to believe it.
But our disbelief is one of the reasons we have these statistics:
1 in 6 boys will be sexually exploited by age 18.
1 in 3 girls will be sexually exploited by age 18.
(Source: 1in6.org and dosomething.org)
And again, 93% of those abusers are family members and acquaintances: parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins. They are teachers, coaches, family friends, fellow church members, pastors, youth leaders . . . and more.
This is what our scripture passage, Matthew 7:15–20, is talking about. Let me read three lines from this scripture:
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.
Our scripture talks about false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing. These are individuals who use their power and authority to harm those who have less power. This is talking about those who abuse children and vulnerable adults.
The scripture also says we will know them by their fruit. And what is their fruit? How will we know them by their fruit?
It’s important to look at what our definition of fruit is. Perpetrators who have been in our churches for a long time usually will have produced fruit that we would call good. This fruit often looks like charitable, Christian acts. But sadly, that fruit is only part of the “sheep’s clothing” they wear to fool us. It is grooming behavior, meant to put children and adults at ease with offenders’ increasingly questionable interactions. We must be vigilant and trust our gut feelings when individuals seem to be crossing boundaries.
How do we define the fruit that impacts victims and survivors and that makes our churches unsafe for children and the vulnerable?
I have experienced personally and learned from many survivors what the fruit of abuse looks like. This fruit is the devasting and often lifelong effect the abuse has on the survivor. And these devasting effects are not because the survivor is not strong enough or doesn’t have enough faith in God. It is because crimes of sexual violence have been committed against them. And they have to live with the disgusting, rotting fruit of those crimes. So to keep our churches safe we must understand what survivors experience and how to care for them, but also who perpetrators are and how to keep them accountable and create boundaries for them.
Churches will become safe places for children and the vulnerable when we, as followers of Jesus, begin to see this type of fruit—and when we see the world through the lens of the victims, the vulnerable, and the marginalized.
Churches will become safe places when abuse issues are seen through a survivor’s lens.
There are many things churches can do to be safer, but I’ll share two.
Special Services and Safe Sanctuary Policies Are Not Enough
Safety is not as much about having special services during child abuse prevention month or having safe sanctuaries policies—although these things are good and important to continue. I’m so glad that your church is doing this service and that you have a Safe Sanctuaries policy. But creating safety is about who we become when we understand what abuse looks like and who survivors are. Policies and special services are external, but I believe Jesus calls us to do internal work. We are called to change ourselves and our view of sexual violence. We are called to develop a moral compass when it comes to sexual violence in our churches. A safe sanctuaries policy and special services are more like road maps. They are external documents that take us from one point to another. But a moral compass is a shift in ourselves and our attitude.
Safe Sanctuaries Policies Represent Suffering
Another way we can change our internal compass around abuse issues is to understand that the policies we use to guide us represent suffering. If there was no abuse in churches, then there would be no need for the policies. Our policies represent abuse that has occurred in the lives of many vulnerable people, including children. Because this is child abuse prevention month, you may be asked to review your Safe Sanctuaries policy. I encourage you when you hold that policy in our hand and read the words remember that the reason you have this policy is because many children and other vulnerable people have suffered the horrific crime of sexual violence.
Caring During Covid-19
This is a very heavy topic. And the times we are in now with the COVID-19 pandemic is causing high stress for most of us if not all of us. But if we want to be safe churches for children and the vulnerable, we must talk about these difficult topics, whether we are in a pandemic or not.
Children and youth need protection now more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to school closures, economic stress, and unmet childcare needs, leaving many parents in a lurch. In addition, many vulnerable people are confined with their abusers, and they have less contact with mandatory reporters. It’s not surprising that child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence are predicted to increase.
It is important that we get creative in finding ways to support families and keep kids safe while they’re homebound during this pandemic. Continuing regular “check-ins” with families and providing for concrete needs, such as grocery and care package drop offs, are a couple ways to support families.
It’s also important to remember that high stress times can be even more difficult for those who have experienced abuse in their past. Everyone’s journey is different, but for many who have experienced abuse—and not just sexual abuse, but any kind of abuse—this is an even more intense time.
Something positive you can do during this time is to reach out to individuals that you know have experienced abuse. For some survivors, relationships are not safe, so it’s easy to isolate. You can work at building safety for these individuals by sending them an email or a card in the mail or by making a phone call. It’s important to reach out and let them know that you care. This helps to build trust with survivors. And when survivors feel safe in church, then the whole church is safer for children and the vulnerable.
Look for the Helpers
One thing that Mr. Rogers said is to always look for the helpers.
When it comes to understanding sexual violence, who are the helpers? Who are the helpers in keeping children and vulnerable adults safe and understanding and caring for victims and survivor of abuse? In churches we often look to pastors for answers and help in understanding difficult issues. After all, they are the leaders of the church.
But when it comes to sexual abuse, the pastors also need to find helpers. In our Mennonite world we have some excellent helpers.
Dove’s Nest provides not only speakers like myself, but they also provide a lot of good resources like blogs, sample policies, etc. on keeping children safe. Dove’s Nest mission is to empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches, and communities. I would encourage you to check out their website at www.dovesnest.net.
Into Account/Our Stories Untold are two agencies that are combining into one. Into Account strives to provide the most up-to-date, relevant resources for survivors seeking healing and/or accountability. They specialize in strategies for holding institutions, perpetrators, and enablers accountable for violence, harm, and cover-ups—primarily abuse that has happened in a Christian institution. This is a good resource for victim and survivors.
Our Stories Untold has stories and articles that inform and educate about the experiences of victims and survivors. These personal accounts of abuse are another way to see what the fruit of sexual violence really is. www.intoaccount.org
The MAP List stands for Mennonite Abuse Prevention List. This is an agency that uses media articles, court documents, church files, and other credible documentation to build a database of church leaders in Anabaptist or other pacifist church traditions who have been sanctioned or credibly accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, stalking, and similar violations. If you want to find out more information about perpetrators in the Mennonite church, the MAP List is a good resource. www.themaplist.org
The things I have said here and the work of the agencies I’ve listed may not be subjects we want to discuss in our congregations. Again, this is a difficult topic. But if we want our churches to be safe for children and vulnerable adults, then these are things we must hear. And so I thank you for listening and allowing me to share this information with you.
Let me leave you with this one last quote by Judith Herman, an expert in the field of trauma.
“All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. [They] appeal to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”
Be safe and take care.
Step 2. Keeping CMC Safe Policy
Highlights from our KCMCS Policy:
For onsite activities with children and youth:
1. At least two KCMCS trained and approved adults to supervise each activity. Persons 18 years or older are considered to be adults.
2. Eligibility is based on the following:
a. Volunteers must have regularly attended CMC for at least 6 months during the past 12 months. (Two Sundays/month for 6 months).
b. Volunteers who are sophomore age or older must have an application and memorandum of understanding on file. They also must participate in the annual training.
c. Persons supervising the activities of minors should be at least five years older than the oldest minor participating in the activity.
d. Volunteers must not have a previous history that precludes him/her from working with children.
e. Background checks are not required for onsite volunteers.
For offsite activities with children and youth:
1. At least two KCMCS trained and approved adults in each activity, except in the case of mentoring. Persons who are 18 years or older are considered to be adults.
2. Eligibility is based on the following:
a. Youth Sponsors must have regularly attended CMC for one year.
b. Mentors must have regularly attended CMC for two years.
c. Volunteers who are sophomore age or older must have an application and memorandum of understanding on file. They also must participate in the annual training.
d. Background checks are required for anyone involved with children/youth offsite.
e. Persons supervising the activities of minors should be at least five years older than the oldest minor participating in the activity.
f. Volunteers must have no previous history that precludes him/her from working with children.
To REPORT Child Abuse or Neglect at Columbus Mennonite Church contact a member of the Response Team: Scott Applegate (Leadership Team), Julie Hostetler (CMC Member | social worker), Jim Leonard (CMC Member | attorney), Joel Miller (Pastor), Erin Neese (Shepherding Commission)
Concerns about Clergy Misconduct. If you have concerns about sexual abuse in the ministerial relationship involving any Mennonite pastor, call 800-662-2264 (Central District Conference Office).
Step 4. Thank you for completing the training. Please do one of the following:
- If you do not plan to work with our children or youth, please complete and submit the participation form at the bottom of this page.
- If you plan to work with children/youth, please indicate that choice and submit participation form at the bottom of this page.
IF you did not fill out the application or memorandum last year and would like to work with children, let's be in touch (see information below).
To access the application:
- Go to Resources, and click on member log in.
- Log in information to this secure site is available from Mim (email@example.com).
- Complete and submit application.
- If this is your first application, you will receive a request for three references after submission of your form.
Resources used in development of this training:
Dove's Nest is a Mennonite organization that seeks to keep children and youth in faith communities safe. We are grateful to have them as a resource to access materials and speakers. Please check out their website and contact them to receive their monthly newsletter.
Dove's Nest presented Columbus Mennonite Church with the Dove's Nest Finalist Award at the Orlando 2017 MC USA Convention for our Keeping CMC Safe program. In 2018, we received a $350 Safe Church Grant through Everence, which was promoted on Dove's Nest website.
The Mama Bear Effect: talking about sexual abuse is easier than you think.