Safeguarding Youth

People of Hope:

I know we all value children here. I know we do because, more than 15 years ago, this community founded Children of Hope Child Development Center to provide kids with really solid early childhood education. I know we do because of the “pray-ground” in the sanctuary, a space set aside specifically for our kids. I know we do because our small church staff includes a Family Ministry Coordinator, Deacon Connie, who teaches Sunday Funday, coordinates Vacation Bible School, and leads First Communion Instruction, among other things. We value children here.

Because we value children, we are invested in keeping them safe, especially when they are here at Esperanza. To that end, the council has approved a policy entitled “Safeguarding God’s Children.” The policy describes how adults and children might most safely interact with one another while we are here at Esperanza, with a specific focus on preventing child sexual abuse.

Click Here for the Policy.

We may be wondering if this policy was approved because there was a problem here at Esperanza that this policy is addressing. To lay your fears to rest, no, nothing happened. We simply want to prevent any possible indiscretions in the future.

As yucky as it feels, as defensive or fearful or worried as we may be, simply talking about how we can create safe space for children is maybe the best thing we can do to actually create safe space for children. Not talking about it — silence — is what allows inappropriate behavior to begin and continue.

One of the greatest gifts of a faith community, in my opinion, is that it is usually a cross-generational space. Think about it: Most of the community spaces in our culture right now are explicitly or implicitly designed for one particular age group or generation. We do this in the church, too. We have special programs for children or teenagers or mothers of young children or people who are retired. There is value in these types of programs because many of the needs of that particular group get met, but cross-generational spaces are precious. In cross-generational spaces, we get to hang out with kids and learn from our elders. We get to talk with people who have experiences similar to us, who use the same lingo, who know the same cultural touch points (I’m a child of the ’80s who loves Michael Jackson and rode her bike everywhere without a helmet). In cross-generational spaces, we also get to learn what life was like and is like for people whose slang, music choices, and assumptions about the world are radically different from ours. Relationships with people of different generations are a huge gift that the church can bring to our lives. While we need to practice good boundaries to ensure our community is safe and healthy, I hope our Safeguarding God’s Children policy will not discourage us from volunteering with kids so much as encourage us to build relationships with kids built on respect, transparency, love, and joy.

With gratitude for you,

Pastor Sarah