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Safe Sanctuaries

Safe Sanctuaries is more than guidelines, policies and procedures implemented to create an environment in which children, youths and the adults who work with them have boundaries of safe space. Safe Sanctuaries is an overt expression of a faith community in making a congregation a safe place where children, youths, seniors and vulnerable adults may experience the abiding love of God and fellowship within the community of faith. God calls us to make our churches safe places, protecting children and other vulnerable persons from abuse. We are also called to make off-site venues or activities such as Volunteer-in-Mission trips and retreats as safe as possible.

April 8, 2020 Update: Suggestions for Following Safe Sanctuaries Guidelines Online

Background Checks
The Virginia Conference has partnered with ScreeningOne to conduct volunteer and staff background checks for the conference and United Methodist churches in Virginia. Through this agreement, the conference has established a preferred product package that combines various criminal background searches for an industry-best, pre-employment, criminal history report. Churches can sign up for their own ScreeningOne account with no paperwork and receive exclusive conference rates. There are no minimums and no sign-up fees. One benefit of a local church working with ScreeningOne is that background reports will not have to be duplicated if an individual serves as a volunteer with a conference-sponsored ministry. For details on the program and any questions, contact the Virginia UMC representative, Paul Craddock, at (919) 533-5005 or

Click here to view a “Sample” permission form to perform a background check (Word).

The Common Table for Church Vitality of the Virginia Conference UMC has a protection policy for children/youths/vulnerable adults which covers conference-sponsored events (NOT for local churches). Click below to view the policy.
Download a Word form
Download a pdf form

Steps to become a Safe Sanctuaries Compliant Church
1. Purchase Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church for Children and Adults by Joy Melton 2008. It is available through Cokesbury Bookstore. If your church feels the need to also focus on older adults, Safe Sanctuaries: The Church Responds to Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of Older Adults (2012) is also available.
2. Create a Safe Sanctuaries Policy. Have all adults (laity and clergy, paid and volunteer) working with children, youths and vulnerable adults participate in Safe Sanctuaries training and complete a background check.
3. Implement policy, review and celebrate annually.

Steps to writing a local church Safe Sanctuaries Policy
1. Develop a Safe Sanctuaries Task Force or team in the local church.
2. Review Sample Safe Sanctuaries Policy – Click here for small membership (pdf) Click here for large membership (pdf)
3. Create a policy that fits the needs and the ministries at the local church level. This policy should include what is in the sample policy.
4. Have policy approved by local church Trustees and/or Church Council.
5. Local churches should hold discussions in the Church Council and in adult education settings about the possibility of facing the situation of a convicted sex offender returning to or joining the church. These discussion should be held and general agreement reached about actions to be taken should the church find itself in the in this circumstance. (2012 Book of Resolutions, #8014. Church Participation by a Registered Child Sex Offender)
a. Develop a carefully constructed and openly negotiated covenant between the offender and the church community for at least the entire time of church membership or participation; adult “Covenant Partners” to accompany the offender while on church property or attending church activities; areas of church facilities that are “off limits”; restrictions on leadership in or on behalf of church; no role in church that includes contact with children or youths; any additional conditions for presence or participation.
b. Assure that the covenant is maintained by having it written and signed by the offender, pastor(s), and the chairperson of the Church Council. While confidentiality of victims should be respected, the covenant should not be secret. Monitoring of the covenant should be taken seriously as a permanent responsibility.

For more information
For more information contact Becky Tate at 804-521-1139, or email her at

Basic Safe Sanctuaries Trainers
Below is a list of people who might be available to lead Basic Safe Sanctuaries training in your church.
Debbie Brown ( or 540-344-6225, ext. 3) – Roanoke/Roanoke District
Cindy Banek ( or 757-229-1771) – Williamsburg/York River District
Linda Ray ( or 540-207-1787) – Ashland/Richmond District
Cecelia Short ( or H: 757-826-3009 or C: 757-254-3505) – Hampton/York River District
Jason Stanley ( or 804-921-1171 –  Norfolk/Elizabeth River District
When scheduling a training session, please reserve three hours for trainers to cover all materials.
Please be prepared to compensate these individuals for their travel expenses and consider offering an honorarium for their time.

Safe Sanctuary resources available for Children, Youths, Vulnerable Adults and Seniors from Discipleship Ministries:

Discipleship Ministries offers new Safe Sanctuaries videos
Click here to see resources available from Discipleship Ministries

Online Training Opportunities offers online educational and spiritual formation opportunities throughout the year as a program of the Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern College, a United Methodist institution in Winfield, Kansas. Check the website for details.

Creating Safe Spaces for Children and Youth Ministries (Christian Education Online) is offering Creating Safe Spaces for Children and Youth Ministries, Aug. 9-20, 2021. Who is supervising the shower schedule for your youth group’s summer mission trip? How many adults are overseeing the costume changes for the Christmas Pageant? I know you have two adults with your Sunday School’s 4-year-old class, but what happens when someone needs a bathroom break? How do you get your teenagers to stop going down the street for coffee during Sunday School hour? And are those teenagers still running your VBS games? What is your plan for the day when you get falsely accused of improper conduct with children or youth? Whether your congregation calls it a Safe Sanctuary, Church or Gathering policy – or a Policy for Protection, or Prevention of Abuse, or any of a dozen other names – this document is your best preparation for reducing the risk in those situations and more!
Click here for details and to register

Intensive Safe Sanctuary Training for Workers with Children and Youths
This online workshop for workers with children and youths in congregations that already have a Safe Sanctuary policy. This would include Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, nursery volunteers, Christian education staff, van drivers, children and youth choir directors… in short, anyone who works with children and youths in any capacity! To participate, please email the Rev. Beth Perry at to schedule a training with her.

Resources available from the Virginia Department of Social Services for Vulnerable Adults and Seniors:
Signs of Adult Abuse – Virginia Department of Social Services   
Online Training for Mandated Reporters