“Some people brought children to Jesus so that he would place his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded them. ‘Allow the children to come to me,’ Jesus said. ‘Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.’ Then he blessed the children and went away from there.” – Matthew 19:13-14
This week we have been grieving with the victims, families and church members at NewSpring Church in North Charleston, where a caregiver has been accused of assaulting more than a dozen children at the church. Any time children are harmed, especially in a place that is supposed to care for them, we are devastated. Jesus treasured and valued children – as do we.
At Two Rivers Church, we prioritize the safety of all children in our care. We are committed to cultivating an environment where they can form an imagination for God, create community, and flourish in mind, body and spirit. We want to share with you how we care for our children.
- Family friendly worship. Our worship is always family-friendly and inclusive. Children of all ages are welcome as full participants in all of our worship services. They may remain with their families. We offer several tables of coloring books, pages and quiet toys. We delight in children’s voices – clapping, rejoicing, crying, talking are all signs of God’s ever-renewing life in our midst. You will never be asked to take your child to a space that is separate from you.
- Children’s Spiritual Formation Room. Some children (and some parents!), however, do want a space and place where their children can learn at their level. We offer a Children’s Room for our children through age 10 to engage the Bible, to explore their questions about God and exercise their creativity. In the Children’s Room, we use a Montessori-based model of spiritual formation for children. Parents are always welcome in the children’s room.
- Screened caregivers and volunteers. We complete a criminal record check and sexual offender registry check on both our paid caregivers and our volunteers. Both of our paid caregivers are known to our leaders for many years. Our volunteers are connected with us for six months before they are allowed to volunteer with children.
- Safe Sanctuaries practices. We follow the United Methodist Church practices to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults called Safe Sanctuaries. The key practice we adhere to is the Two Adult Rule. We commit to having two background screened, unrelated adults with children at all times. There is to be no one child-one adult interaction.
- Children’s check-in. Beginning January 4, children will be checked into the Children’s Room by their parents using our church management software, Breeze. The parent and the child will each be given a sticky tag to wear that matches them together.
- Parent-only toileting policy. Only parents or guardians are allowed to take children to the toilet or change diapers. Parents are encouraged to take their child to the toilet or check diapers before checking them into the children’s room. If toileting needs to take place, a caregiver will take the child to their parent so the parent can care for the child’s needs.
- Training opportunities for parents and volunteers. In the first quarter of 2019, we will offer two different opportunities for parents and caregivers. The first will be required for our caregivers, staff, and volunteers. Darkness to Light is a comprehensive training on how to identify and prevent child sexual abuse. This workshop will be offered twice with childcare provided. The second opportunity will be a Sunday afternoon Worries and Wonderings conversation led by the Rev. LeAnn Gardner, a local therapist who specializes in wraparound sexuality education. This particular conversation is perfect for parents, no matter the age of their child.
We recognize that children are God’s most precious gift to us. At Two Rivers Church, they are seen as valuable, full members of our community and we are committed to their safety. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Pastor Wendy with any questions you may have.
Wendy Hudson-Jacoby is the Pastor of Two Rivers Church in Charleston, SC. As a life-long United Methodist, she spent her formative years worshiping at First United Methodist Church, Lancaster. She attended the University of South Carolina, where she majored in print journalism. After graduating, she served as a young adult missionary through the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church and spent 18 months in Mumbai, India, and 18 months in Philadelphia. She attended Wesley Theological Seminary and spent her first seven years of full-time ministry in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference. She returned to her home state in 2011 to become the pastor of North Charleston United Methodist Church. In July 2017, their family moved to Clements Ferry Road to start Two Rivers Church, South Carolina’s newest United Methodist Church.