There aren’t a lot of places where we can go to find true safety. For many of us, our jobs are a place of stress and bitterness. Our homes are sometimes filled with fighting and dissension. Is there a place where we can go and be safe? Ideally, that place is the church. But is your church a safe place?
In order to find out if your church is a safe place, ask a few questions. Look at your church from the perspective of those who may be there already, or who may be coming.
Is your church safe for seekers?
Seekers are people who may be curious about the truth. They are thinking. They are wondering. They are not Christians…yet. A seeker must feel that the church is a safe place to ask questions and to muse outloud. Will people listen? Will people try to hush her questions, or respond by stuffing easy Christian one-liners in her face? Will people mull through the issues with her and not against her? Will people attack her for her fear of committing, or will they commiserate with her perplexity and try to guide her to truth? The seeker is not someone to whom we must pander — an artificial smile, free coffee, a complimentary pen, and some worship songs in her preferred style. Instead, we must make the church a safe place to ask, to wonder, to think — and ultimately, to find answers.
Is your church safe for sinners?
Often, the people who feel the most threatened by a church are the people who need it most. We are all sinners, of course, but there are certain people who are more noticeable sinners. Maybe they’re dirty, ugly, angry, homeless, smelly, or just down on their luck. Often, people come to churches to ask for food and charity. Do they feel safe, or do they feel as if they might get run off the property by a group of religious prudes? We would do well to take our example from Jesus, who welcomed sinners. He ate with them, spent time with them and loved them. Jesus’ example of love is the best example we have of the way to help sinners feel safe and welcomed by a community of people that can help them the most.
Is your church safe for children?
When it comes to children, our perspective shifts slightly. Children are among the most vulnerable and helpless people in the world. Sadly, there are people who want to prey on children, subjecting them to the terror of their own lusts. We’ve all heard the stories of how such people lurk within churches. If your church is to be a safe place for children, you must put up safeguards to protect against such abuse. It may be inconvenient to have two people present in every Sunday school classroom, to have screening procedures, and to institute child protection policies, but it is extremely important. Stop at nothing to ensure that “the least of these” are the most protected.
Is your church safe for your pastor?
When we think of the church as a “safe place,” we don’t often include the pastor as one of those people who must experience its safety. Nonetheless, pastors often feel afraid within their own churches. They fear being spurned by discontented churchgoers. They feel the sting of gossip. They fear the anger of a disgruntled deacon board. The pastor bears a heavy responsbility, and the last thing he wants to feel is the fear of entering his own church and stepping into the pulpit. Shower your pastor with love, and express to him the joy you have in his ministry.
Creating a safe church isn’t about forming a “seeker-sensitive” church or watering down the truth to make people feel accepted. Creating a safe church is about reaching others in a Christlike way. If your church feels dangerous, threatening, or hostile, perhaps it’s time to change some things.