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Photo: Participants use hula hoops as part of a Circle of Grace curriculum training. Photo provided.
About half of Mennonite Church USA churches had a written child protection policy and half did not. This is according to the churches that responded to a 2010 survey administered by Dove’s Nest: Faith Communities Keeping Children and Youth Safe.
Eight years later, Dove’s Nest leadership hopes and imagines that more churches now have written policies on abuse prevention.
Dove’s Nest is rolling out a new survey for pastors and church leaders. This survey is part of a larger study to assess the impact of our work over the past decade with churches related to Mennonite Church USA and beyond. Dove’s Nest staff hopes to hear from as many churches as possible.
In existence since 2009, Dove’s Nest is an official 501c3 that operates alongside but independent of Mennonite Church USA. As Dove’s Nest approaches its 10-year anniversary, board and staff see new challenges have emerged surrounding technology/social media, pornography, adolescent offenders, and misconduct against adults.
“Instead of continuing to offer the same kind of resources, consultations, and trainings, we want to make sure we are meeting the current needs of churches, schools, and camps,” says Anna Groff, executive director. “The results will help us inform how we continue to serve churches and remain in touch with the growing and changing needs related to safety in faith communities.”
“We also see this impact study, which includes both quantitative and qualitative parts, as a way to reconnect with churches on this topic,” said Jeanette Harder, board member and cofounder of Dove’s Nest. “It is critical for us to hear the voices of church leaders so we can celebrate gains and provide needed services.”
In the 2010 survey, responses were received from 269 out of the approximate 855 Mennonite Church USA churches at that time (32% response rate). These results informed Dove’s Nest work for many years and were also published in a professional Christian journal and in Harder’s book Let the Children Come: Preparing Faith Communities to End Child Abuse and Neglect.
Nearly all the 2010 responding churches were comprised of white/Caucasian members. Over half of churches were in the country or a small-to-moderate size town. Dove’s Nest leadership hopes that more multicultural and urban churches will join in participating in this follow-up study.
According to the 2006 Church Member Profile, more than 1 in 5 women in Mennonite Church USA congregations have experienced sexual abuse or violation, most while they were children or teens. For men, the incidence of abuse experienced before the age of 20 is 5.5%. (For society at large, the figures range from 17–25% for women and 3–16% for men, depending on the study and how people define sexual abuse or assault.)
Also, Dove’s Nest 2010 survey found that about one-tenth of responding churches acknowledged they have suspected the abuse or neglect of a child connected to their church.
“I am personally curious what the 2018 number will be,” said Groff. “While I am certainly not wishing for more cases of abuse or neglect, I imagine that with increased awareness, more than one in ten pastors will respond yes to having suspected abuse or neglect. We know that victims and survivors are in every church.”
Additional information from the 2010 survey: fewer than half of respondents had a written plan for reporting suspected child abuse and fewer than one-fourth had a written plan for integrating someone with a history of sexual offense while still keeping children safe.
Click here to take the survey: https://tinyurl.com/yc3zg9kp
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