A Church of Safe People

I was listening to a podcast recently. Not bragging, just saying. The podcast in question was for leaders and it had some really good advice.  The conversation was about finding safe people. The gist of it was that we need to cultivate deep and meaningful relationships with folks who will care for us and tell us the truth and extend grace when needed and offer loving correction when needed. Folks who will listen when we vent, who will talk us off the ledge when we need it, who will let us be us (warts and all) and who will keep confidences.  Safe people. 

I am grateful for the safe people in my life. In fact, I treasure them. And as the podcast ended, I thought to myself, “That’s what the church should be.  Full of safe people”. Which brings me to this little article.  As good as the advice is to find safe people (and it is good advice and you should do it), I think the challenge I would like to put out to us as the church is that we need to work on being safe people. All of us. Our churches should be full of safe people including you and me.

What might that look like?  Glad you asked:

1)     Our churches should be places where it is safe to ask questions and to seek answers. Nobody should ever be afraid to ask. If they are, we aren’t safe and people may decide God can’t handle our questions and walk away.

2)     Our churches should be places where it is safe to try new ideas out. We need to keep finding new, creative and effective ways to be Kingdom Bringers and Disciple Makers. Often, we won’t know about how effective we are or can be unless we try new ideas out. Part (b) of this point would be that our churches should be safe places if an idea or plan or program doesn’t work. It should be ok to fail. If its not, we won’t ever try things. If people are afraid to try because of the criticism and judgement it will bring, we aren’t safe and we will miss out on the best ideas and maybe lose some good creative thinkers. And the church and the Kingdom will be poorer for it.

3)     Our churches should be places where it is ok to not be perfect. They should be places where we can share our hardship and pain and be ministered too and prayed for. They should be places where needs can be known and met. They should be places where we receive grace. If it’s not ok to be not ok, then we aren’t safe. People will stay away or stay quiet and they will miss what God has for them, and which He wants lived out and put on display through His people.

4)     Some quick ones:

a.     Our churches should be places where the truth is always told in love. Not places where people are scolded or have fingers waved at them. Or worse.

b.     Our churches should be places where we don’t have to fear how we are talked to or talked about. 

c.      Our churches should be places where confidences are kept.

d.     Our churches should be places where people experience welcome and love, no matter what.

e.     Our churches should be places where disagreement and difficult conversations are held, but held well. Full of respect and love where all people are treated as though they matter to God (because they do).  Where these conversations are seen as issues to be grappled with and worked through together, not as fights to be won and lost.


f.      Finally, our churches should be places where people never question that they are loved by God and His people, even if they have some work to do with God on their relationship with Him.

You get the idea. We need to be safe people. Our world needs the church to be full of safe people. Not nice people who will put up with anything. Safe people who will love like God does. Let’s work on that together.

Marc McAlister
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada.