"I’ve had several people comment to me after Safeguarding Sunday saying it had been helpful to remind them of all our responsibilities, mentioning things they had learnt that had not occurred to them before, and two people came to me to talk about abuse they had experienced as children!"
This is just one of the incredible testimonies that we've received from the hundreds of churches that took part in our Safeguarding Sunday campaign this year, telling us of the real impact it has had on their community. But with it being the first time we've run the campaign nationwide (following a small pilot in 2017) Peter Wright, our Head of Communications, shares some reflections on the campaign and his thoughts for the future:
“When we launched the campaign early last year we had no idea what to expect. We knew churches wanted an opportunity to be part of a national campaign to raise awareness of safeguarding locally, because they had asked us for one. So we listened and created ‘Safeguarding Sunday’, a date in the calendar where churches could unite together to raise awareness of safeguarding among their congregations by: talking about the things they have in place to safeguard vulnerable people; explaining why safeguarding is so important; introducing and acknowledging the people whose job it is to make safeguarding happen; and creating an opportunity for churches to recommit and pledge together to create safer places for all.
To help do this we created a resource pack full of ideas to help churches get involved including: posters, prayers, song ideas, activities, videos and preaching plans, which we promoted through social media and email.
But did it work?
At thirtyone:eight we know that the church, as a whole, still has a long way to go before it can feel confident that it is creating safer places for everyone. As church, our past track record on this should inspire an energetic commitment and passion to get this right, but we know this isn’t always the case. Each week we speak with church Safeguarding Leads who really struggle to get people to understand the importance of safeguarding and to grasp the necessity of making it part of everything the church does. It can feel like an immense up-hill struggle. So is holding a ‘Safeguarding Sunday’ service really the answer?
No. On it’s own, holding one safeguarding focused service in the year won't change a culture. But it can be part of the answer. It can be part of that process, another tool in our efforts to initiate change.
It can help. It has helped.
In the weeks running up to Safeguarding Sunday on the 13th October, we had over 600 downloads of the pack, which was far more than we were expecting. In fact, we were blown away by the response and so encouraged by the number of churches wanting to be involved. More importantly, however, was how we measure 'success' through hearing the testimonies of those that took part and the impact the campaign has had. Here are some to the response we’ve had so far:
“Children got to talk about possible situations where they'd need to talk to a grown up. Adults were reminded about their part in keeping vulnerable adults and children safe in our church.”
“People told me that hearing about safeguarding helped them to understand more and showed them how they could be included in shaping the safeguarding policy.”
“The greatest impact from our service was the feedback from parents and adult members. The children read the prayer, during the worship service. Also, the children's activity worksheets worked exceptionally well during Sunday School.”
“It inspired a member of the congregation to ask for a copy of our safeguarding policy. Well received. thank you.”
The message is being heard.
One church shared that “Safeguarding is really being pushed forward within our Church at present and it is great that we are able to bring everyone on board by holding the Safeguarding Service, so that we feel we really are making it 'everyones responsibility' and creating a safe environment for all”
This is great to hear. And exactly what we are trying to do with this campaign. Safeguarding Sunday can be a perfect platform to start a conversation around the issues and encourage people to ask questions.
Another church Safeguarding Coordinator shared that after holding a Safeguarding Sunday service "two people came to me to talk about abuse they had experienced as children." That's two more people getting the help and support they need because of this campaign.
That's what Safeguarding Sunday is all about.
Our plan is to really grow the campaign next year, building on the feedback we have received and developing our resources further so that more churches can help understand their responsibilities together. Protecting vulnerable people is at the heart of the Christian message and so we want as many churches as possible to take this opportunity to show our communities that we take this mandate seriously.
If you haven't already done so, please complete our short online survey so that we can improve the campaign for next year. Even if you weren't able to take part this year, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Your input will help us shape our campaign for 2020, so please get in touch. You can give us your feedback here."