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DYK? It’s School Time

Posted: August 30 2023 at 10:17 AM
Author: Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Assistant to the Bishop


One of my favorite back-to-school memories is shopping for school supplies. We were a large family, so a new box of crayons with perfectly pointed tips was a once-a-year treat. I would check my box of crayons before it went into the shopping cart just to be sure there were no broken tips. I loved the freshly sharpened pencils, lined notebook papers, rulers, and cool pocket folders.

Shopping for school supplies is a late-summer ritual handed down from generation to generation. Communities have backpack give-a-ways and some churches incorporate a special litany or “Blessings of the Backpacks” into worship as the school season begins.

While we prepare our children for their classes, teachers, administrators, and a vast array of staff prepare buildings, classrooms, and lesson plans. They review the safety and security of the school buildings and playgrounds. Today is a good day to stop and think about all that goes into providing our children with a safe and welcoming environment for learning. Today is a good day to thank those who do this work.

But, it’s not only schools that are ramping up for fall. Our Sunday school programs, youth groups, childcare centers and all sorts of children’s programing is gearing up in our churches as well. There is a long list of visible signs that our classrooms are back in business. Refreshed bulletin boards, a neat stack of Bibles, craft supplies, and Sunday school curriculum are being readied for the season.

Not as visible are the ways in which we prepare our buildings, our classrooms, and our volunteers to insure a safe and healthy experience while children and youth are in our care. Statistically, in the United States the most vulnerable population for abuse are children between the ages of 7 and 13. The median age for reported abuse nationally is 9 years old. There are so many challenges in today’s world for our children and youth to navigate. Being exploited by adults shouldn’t be one of them.

For every congregation in the Northern Illinois Conference, training in Safe Sanctuaries is not a sign that our church volunteers are untrustworthy. Rather it is a witness to our commitment to provide safe spaces for ministries and programs for those who have little voice and are easily exploited. It is a witness that the church is providing trusted adults who can prevent abuse and sometimes even identify those who have suffered abuse at the hands of another.

Training Opportunity

September 30, 2023 - 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Downers Grove: First UMC, 1032 Maple Ave., Downers Grove

Trainer: Deaconess Joy Hayag

November 11, 2023 - 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Chana UMC, 606 N. Main St, Chana

Trainer: Buzz Wheeler
This free training is an alternate to online Safe Gatherings trainings for those who cannot participate.  Background checks not included and need to be coordinated with your local church leadership. For further details and registration visit here.

Training equips our leaders in identifying predatory behavior. Training provides tools for identifying signs and symptoms in those who have been harmed. When we have leaders well trained in prevention, we deter bad behaviors.  When we model good practices, we help others learn as well.

I invite you to add Safe Sanctuary training to your list of steps needed as your church gears up for the season. Our Safe Sanctuaries landing page is umcnic.org/safesanctuaries. You will find tools,
resources, and training options to equip your church volunteers well for the work of being Christ-beloved community. No classroom is complete without this step checked off on your to-do list.

May God grace our children and youth with caring teachers and mentors as their faith is shaped for the future.  

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