What is Safe Church?

Safe Church is a dynamic process that works with a “cluster” of 4-6 congregations over the course of 10 months to shift congregational culture to empower adults to protect children from sexual harm. Learning gained through the Safe Church process bleeds into all areas of our lives within our communities, spreading the message of prevention even further.            

Is Safe Church part of any particular denomination?

No. Safe Church was originally created by Samaritan Counseling Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to work ecumenically with various traditions in a community, joining people of faith in a common vision of protecting children from sexual harm. We believe in the power of diversity to bring forth rich discussion while we all work toward the same goal of protecting children from sexual abuse.

What distinguishes Safe Church from other child protection programs?

  • Safe Church is rooted in a national social movement to end child sexual abuse and works to equip people of faith to participate in a culture shift both within faith communities and secular organizations.

  • Many child protection programs fall short in truly addressing the deeper issues that allow for abuse to happen and have a strong focus on avoiding liability. We believe policies that are living documents created by a group of invested individuals in a faith community have a higher potential to foster change than a generic policy that has not been crafted with the specific congregation and worship space in mind.

Why engage congregations in movement building?

  •  When we engage with commonly held Christian values, we have the power to inspire individuals of faith to be proactive in preventing child sexual abuse both within their churches and their larger communities.

  • People of faith have been essential in past social justice movements – the faith that grounds commitment to social change can empower those doing the work to stay engaged for the time it takes to create a culture shift.

What is included in the process?

Core teams of 3-6 individuals from each church in the cluster meet six times with Safe Church facilitators, forming a learning community of trust to inspire and challenge each other through the training process.

  • Each meeting includes in-depth training and discussion about child sexual abuse and other forms of harm, along with interactive policy making following best practices.

  • Input from community members, such as adult survivors, counselors, child protection workers, law enforcement, and others.             

Congregational Education: During the 10-month process, Safe Church facilitators provide two congregational trainings designed for caregivers, parents, and all adults within the faith community.                   

Staff and Volunteer Training: Those working with children participate in a 3-hour training to learn about the congregation’s new or revised policies, ways to keep children safe, and appropriate interventions when they see warning signs of abuse.

How do I get my congregation on board? 

The first step is for congregational leadership to complete a Safe Church application to enroll in a Cluster which details the commitment required to participate, and select the 3-6 individuals to participate as the “core team” who will attend the 6 Cluster meetings. Between meetings, the core team will work together with church leadership to craft new policy, or review and update existing church policy, guided by a best practices template.

The congregation comes on board gradually. The job of each core team is to raise awareness of the Safe Church program through worship resources, promotion of the congregational education sessions, and seeking input from leaders within the congregation to inform the interactive policy-making process.

Contact Jess Balac or Ross Erb to learn more: 540-432-6430,,