Glen Guyton, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, is working with Dove’s Nest to help churches keep children safe, particularly vulnerable boys.
As part of the Dove’s Nest speakers’ bureau, Guyton recently gave a presentation, “Man Talk: Safeguarding Our Boys in Faith Communities,” at a virtual event for the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse, a nonprofit organization in the Philippines.
As a father of an adult daughter and son, Guyton feels strongly about sharing this message with MC USA and other faith leaders.
“Faith communities are at risk,” he said. “Sexual abuse is the most common form of abuse in church settings. No faith community or church is immune from abuse.”
Abuse is a widespread problem for all children, especially girls, but Guyton shared research showing that 1 in 13 boys experiences sexual abuse in childhood and 1 in 6 men has been sexually abused or assaulted.
Guyton said boys are particularly stigmatized by sexual abuse. He debunked several myths that shame and blame boys in abusive situations.
“Faith communities have an important part to play in keeping children and youth safe from all types of child abuse and neglect,” Guyton said.
Yet some of the church’s biggest strengths — its high-trust environment and desire for forgiveness — can be its biggest weaknesses.
Guyton offered several ways churches can help keep children safe, including:
— Establishing prevention policies;
— Learning about abuse, such as grooming behavior and peer abuse;
— Talking about child protection in formal and informal ways as a congregation; and
— Providing opportunities for dialogue and listening to those hurt by abuse.
“We know that in every one of our congregations, there are victims and survivors, both men and women,” said Anna Groff, executive director of Dove’s Nest. “There is a need for prevention education and best practices.”
She emphasized the important role of men in this work.
“Abuse prevention is often seen as a woman’s job,” said Groff. “Men have a responsibility to be a part of this conversation. Prevention programs are most effective when men and women collaborate to keep all children and youth safe.”
Dove’s Nest offers a collection of training and educational resources for faith communities. Their newest training resources include:
COVID-19 and Safety Training
This live Zoom training addresses the unique vulnerability of children and youth during COVID-19 and what churches can do to prevent harm and support families during this challenging time, and how they can prepare for the summer and fall as faith communities. It also includes best practices and safety tips for Zoom and virtual kids’ programming for churches.
This recorded Zoom or live Zoom training is a resource for churches wanting to dig deeper into understanding and preventing various types of trauma as well as actively supporting survivors in faith communities. It includes information on the types of trauma, brain development, trauma triggers and “institutional courage” principles developed by Jennifer Freyd. There is an analysis of the core values of Anabaptist faith communities, with special attention on how to balance peace, reconciliation and justice when protecting the vulnerable.
38-Minute Training Video for Adult Volunteers
This abuse-prevention and healthy boundaries training video is designed for adults volunteering in faith communities, such as churches, camps or schools. The video covers:
— Child abuse and Jesus’ message regarding safety for children;
— Why and how to implement a child protection policy;
— An overview of the Circle of Grace Christian safe environment curriculum for children and youth;
— Reporting suspected abuse;
— Tech safety and social media;
— Child-on-child perpetration; and
— Consent and safe touch.
In addition, conferences or congregations interested in inviting a Dove’s Nest speaker, including Guyton, may contact Dove’s Nest by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss availability and honorariums.
Dove’s Nest is a nonprofit with Mennonite roots that seeks to empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches and communities.