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.

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 1-888-327-6511, ext. 109, 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 (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 the Paulo Lopes, director of Ministries with Young People, at or 1-800-768-6040, ext. 135 or (804) 521-1135. Becky Tate is the administrative assistant for Ministries with Young People. You can call her at 1-800-768-6040 ext. 139 or 804-521-1139, or e-mail 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) - Roanoke
Cindy Banek ( or 757-229-1771) – Williamsburg;
Linda Ray ( or 540-207-1787) – Ashland
Cecelia Short ( or 757-874-8661) – Hampton
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.

Resources for Children and Youth:
Children’s Ministry Resources from the General Board of Discipleship:

Newsletter Website:

Resources for Teachers:

Recommended Weekday Ministries with Young People:

On-Line Training Opportunities offers on-line 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. Two of their regular training programs are described below. Check the website for details.
Writing Your Safe Sanctuary Policy:
This on-line workshop is for congregations that don’t have a policy or whose policy is outdated, needs to be revised, doesn’t meet the needs of current ministries, etc. Participants will learn why congregations should have an up-to-date Safe Sanctuary policy, what the policy includes generally and specifically, how to get a policy written and approved, and how to implement it.
Intensive Safe Sanctuary Training for Workers with Children and Youths:
This on-line 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!

Resources for Vulnerable Adults and Seniors:

“Elder Abuse” from the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries of the General Board of Discipleship
Safe Sanctuaries: The Church Responds to Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of Older Adults 
Signs of Adult Abuse - Virginia Department of Social Services  
On-Line Training for Mandated Reporters


The Cross and Flame is a registered trademark, and the use is supervised by the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) of The United Methodist Church. Permission to use the Cross and Flame must be obtained from the GCFA, Attn: Legal Department, PO Box 340029, Nashville, TN 37203-0029; phone 615-369-2334; fax 615-369-2330

Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
10330 Staples Mill Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060
P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23058-5606
1-800-768-6040 or (804) 521-1100
Click here for directions to the Center