By Jessica Griggs for Mennonite Church USA
ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Church USA) — Safe Church, Mennonite Church USA’s newly formed abuse prevention ministry, now has a webpage available on the MC USA website. The webpage offers resources to help faith communities keep children, youth and vulnerable adults safe from all abuse. Among other materials, the webpage contains a major update to the Circle of Grace curriculum.
Safe Church offerings
Nancy Kauffmann, interim denominational minister of Church Safety, said, “Anyone who wants to be proactive in preventing abuse of any kind in our homes, churches and communities — congregations, pastors, educators, schools, agencies, parents, conferences — in other words, anyone looking for resources, including curricula, trainings, consultation services and speakers, should visit the Safe Church webpage.”
The webpage is continuously being updated with additional resources, but currently, the webpage offers resources related to policy guidelines, training and the ability to request a consultation, in addition to the Circle of Grace curriculum. All resources have been vetted by MC USA staff.
One way that Safe Church recommends faith communities protect people from abuse is through the creation of a protection policy. The webpage provides guidelines on how to develop a protection policy, as well as examples of protection policies from other MC USA churches.
Congregations and other faith-based organizations may request Safe Church consultations from MC USA’s Church Vitality staff. Consultations may be related to pre-established or new protection policies, sex offender policies, or how to handle specific situations.
Safe Church also offers tailored training sessions on a variety of topics to help prevent abuse, from raising awareness about safety policies to caring for victims. These presentations can be offered in person or by Zoom, in the format of a Sunday school lesson, a children’s sermon or in another arrangement that fits the group’s specific needs.
Safe Church is advised by a group of representatives from across the United States, who give counsel regarding what resources are needed to make the church truly safe for all. More information about the Advisory Team can be found here.
As this webpage continues to evolve, more resources will become available on the “Resources” page.
Circle of Grace curriculum
The Circle of Grace curriculum, which is available in both English and Spanish, was created to proactively protect children and youth from abuse, by educating them about boundaries of all types — emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual. It helps children and youth understand how to identify, create and maintain these boundaries, as well as what to do if a boundary is threatened or crossed, all while expressing God’s love and grace.
“Churches are often informal communities with a high degree of trust. That’s good, but it also makes them vulnerable to people looking to exploit children or vulnerable adults,” said Michael Danner, MC USA’s associate executive director for Church Vitality. “The Circle of Grace curriculum helps congregations learn about abuse prevention and systems that aid in prevention.”
Churches, camps, schools and other agencies can use Circle of Grace to supplement their regular Sunday School or classroom curricula. Each stand-alone class is designed for a specific age group. There are between one and four lessons available for each year between preschool and 12th grade.
The Circle of Grace curriculum was originally created by the Archdiocese of Omaha in 2007 and was adapted into a Protestant version in 2018. The curriculum received a major update this year, and MC USA signed a contract with the Archdiocese of Omaha to use the updated Protestant version.
In addition to the materials from the 2018 Protestant version, which have been updated to reflect cultural shifts and other relevant needs of children and youth, the 2023 Protestant version also includes several new resources. Preschool lessons, retreat materials for grades 5-8 and high school, as well as various alternate lesson options have been added.
Upon the release of the 2023 version, MC USA updated its contract with the Archdiocese of Omaha to include only this updated version. Groups currently using the 2018 version of the curriculum are encouraged to update to the 2023 version, if they wish to continue using the curriculum. Circle of Grace may be downloaded, upon the request of a license. License options range from a one-year license, which can be obtained for a $50 administrative fee up to a five-year license, which can be obtained for $150 administrative fee. A 38-minute abuse prevention training video is also available for free; for more information on accessing this video, contact Nancy Kauffmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mennonite Church USA is an Anabaptist Christian denomination, founded in 2002 by the merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. Members of this historic peace church seek to follow Jesus by rejecting violence and resisting injustice. MC USA’s Renewed Commitments state the following shared commitments among its diverse body of believers: to follow Jesus, witness to God’s peace and experience the transformation of the Holy Spirit. Mennoniteusa.org