This blog post comes from Dove’s Nest, an organization committed to empowering faith communities to keep children and youth safe from abuse in their churches, homes and communities.
When a small group of individuals dedicated to child abuse and neglect prevention gathered at the Mennonite Church USA Convention in 2009, no one would have envisioned that a few short years later, their efforts would be impacting thousands of children. The group, led by Dr. Jeanette Harder (of First Mennonite Church in Lincoln, Neb.), formed Dove’s Nest and set out to convince Mennonite Church USA congregations of the necessity of child and youth protection policies. They eventually developed an all-encompassing mission to equip and empower faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches, and communities.
“We began by focusing on the child protection policy piece within Mennonite Church USA congregations, but always intended to convince all churches of their role in preventing abuse outside of the walls of the building as well,” says Harder.
Fast forward five years, and Dove’s Nest now has a national board comprised of Mennonites and other congregationally-governed denominations. Two staff help lead the organization’s day-to-day work. More than 500 Mennonite Church USA congregations or affiliated organizations have received the free Circle of Grace safe environment curriculum, potentially impacting nearly 20,000 children and youth, and more than 100 congregations have participated in a Dove’s Nest training event.
“We’ve been extremely busy,” says Jon Stanton, Executive Director. “But it’s exciting and fulfilling to realize the impact we are having and the new places we are now reaching. We have sent several copies of Circle of Grace to Spanish-speaking churches both in the U.S. and overseas and have conducted trainings in Spanish as well.”
On November 7-9, Dove’s Nest will also host its first bi-national conference in Omaha, Neb. The keynote speaker will be Deondra Brown, of the musical group The 5 Browns, and co-founder of The Foundation for Survivors of Abuse. Eight breakout sessions will be offered across a wide array of topics. Many of the speakers have close ties to Mennonite Church USA.
“We’re offering continuing education units and we have an excellent line up of speakers and topics,” said Stanton. “It’s a great opportunity, and not one you’ll want to miss!” Thanks to a grant from a Mennonite-affiliated foundation, the cost to attend the event is only $50 per person. For information about the conference, visit Dove’s Nest online.
As the main author of the “Protecting and Nurturing our Children and Youth” Resolution, which delegates approved at the 2013 Mennonite Church USA Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., Dove’s Nest has continued to work with Mennonite Church USA leaders to help congregations implement the Resolution’s recommendations. Nancy Kauffmann, denominational minister for Mennonite Church USA, serves on Dove’s Nest’s board.
“I’ve been with Dove’s Nest since the beginning and I am very pleased at the progress we’ve made, especially in the time since passage of the Resolution,” said Kauffmann.
“We’re here to serve and help,” says Stanton. “All Mennonite Church USA congregations are eligible to receive a free copy of Circle of Grace and training events are happening frequently. Check out our website for an up-to-date list of upcoming events and other resources.”