Safe Sanctuaries & Sexual Misconduct

As part of His public ministry, Jesus committed the then-radical act of welcoming children. Churches today want to bless the children as Jesus did. We extend invitations to children and youth, but we also face the tragic reality that sexual abuse of children and youth occurs in our communities. The Baltimore-Washington Conference is committed to ensuring that all people involved in the church may participate in an environment that is safe and secure, as one way that we live out Jesus’ act of love.

To help churches reduce the risk of sexual abuse, The Baltimore-Washington Conference has adopted the book Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church for Children and Youth, by Joy Thornburg Melton, as our policy for keeping children and youth safe in our churches and conference.

Purchasing the Safe Sanctuaries book is the first step to implementing a safe sanctuaries policy and procedure in the local church. It includes suggestions for working with volunteers; guidelines for developing policies and procedures; information about recruiting, screening, and hiring workers; training models for all who work with children and youth; suggestions for congregational response to allegations of abuse; and sample forms which can be found on our samples page on this website.

A local church should:

  • Develop and implement an ongoing education plan for the congregation and its leaders on child abuse, risk factors and strategies for prevention;
  • Adopt screening procedures (including background screening and reference checks) for paid and unpaid workers directly involved in the care of children and youth;
  • Develop and implement safety procedures for church activities such as two or more nonrelated adults present in classrooms, installing windows in doors or leaving doors open and sign-in and sign-out procedures;
  • Advise children and young persons of an agency or person outside as well as within the local church whom they can contact for advice or help in cases of abuse;
  • Carry liability insurance that includes sexual abuse coverage;
  • Be familiar with annual conference policies regarding clergy and laity sexual misconduct.

In addition, the Baltimore-Washington Conference has partnered with Safe Gatherings to offer online training and background check services.  Safe Gatherings is an online abuse prevention program that screens and educates staff and volunteers to help prevent abuse of children, youth, and vulnerable adults in group settings. When employees and volunteers are trained to identify potential abusers, recognize the signs of abuse, and know how to handle reporting, they are better equipped to prevent abuse.

Upon successful completion of the Safe Gatherings application, background and reference checks, and online training program, each applicant will receive documentation of approval valid for three years, and will have continued access to the online training program for one year.

The price per non-clergy applicants for the individual church program available through the Safe Gatherings website is $39. The Conference is covering $20 of this cost, leaving a balance of $19 per applicant. This includes processing of two electronic references, a national and county of residence 7-year background check, national and state of residence Sex Offender Registry check, and the 2-hour online abuse prevention and boundary awareness training.

Contact the Safe Gatherings team at or 888-241-8258 to provide the contact information for your church or group.  As soon as the church is set up within Safe Gatherings, your applicants will be able to follow the links below to begin their Safe Gatherings approval.

The Baltimore-Washington Conference develops safety and risk-reducing policies and procedures for conference-sponsored events, retreats and youth gatherings.  The local church leaders are responsible for policies and procedures for the prevention of child abuse in the local church. Please refer to navigation to the right for samples and training resources. If you have any questions about these resources please contact your Baltimore-Washington Conference Safe Sanctuaries Coordinator.