How can we make sure our congregations are safe places for everyone?

In a blog post on the Mennonite Church USA website, Terry Shue, director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA, said, “Recent episodes of ministerial misconduct in our system have again alerted us to the ongoing task of making our congregations a safe place for everyone — both children and adults. As a long time pastor and now as a denominational leader, I am very aware that this topic has not always received the attention that it has deserved.” (To see the entire blog post, go to

Mennonite Church USA is now promoting Healthy Boundaries training for credentialed leaders as one way to make congregations a safe place for all. In May the denomination, working with staff from the Faith Trust Institute, held a “train the trainers” workshop for Mennonite Church USA leaders from around the country. These leaders were trained to facilitate the Healthy Boundaries 101 and 201 workshops developed by Faith Trust Institute.

Ohio Conference will provide Healthy Boundaries training for all persons credentialed by the Conference. This training will be offered three times during 2017-18. The first training will take place Dec. 9 at SpringHaven Counseling Center in Dundee, near Mount Eaton. Training will also be offered Jan. 13 at First Mennonite Church in Bluffton area and April 21 in the Archbold area.

Attendance at this training is mandatory for continued credentialing in the Ohio Conference.  

Healthy Boundaries training has several goals:

  • To increase awareness of the need for healthy boundaries in the clergy-congregant or teacher-student relationship
  • To provide clergy and lay leaders with guidelines for appropriate boundaries and self-care
  • To illustrate strategies to sustain a safe, healthy church
  • To define boundaries and why they are important

Numerous training topics are included:

  • Theology and the nature of boundaries
  • Power and vulnerability
  • Dating, friendships, dual relationships, gifts
  • The pulpit, transference, hugging and touch, intimacy
  • Emerging issues in maintaining healthy boundaries
  • Living with healthy boundaries (modules include current issues and topics such as Internet technology, social media, pornography, finance, sexual attraction)

The Ohio Conference Credentialing Ministry is encouraging each congregation to send a layperson to the training along with their pastors to share the experience. There are several reasons for this suggestion. Congregations generally want healthy pastors and want to find ways to help that happen, and this training will provide guidelines for achieving that goal. In addition, training a second person will raise the awareness of the congregation’s leadership about ways everyone, and particularly pastors, can practice healthy boundary maintenance.  Congregations are encouraged to send someone who is part of the group to whom the pastor(s) is accountable.

Training presenters will be Jon Bohley and Laurel Neufeld Weaver. Jon Bohley, the clinical director at SpringHaven Counseling Center, is a licensed professional clinical counselor. Laurel Neufeld Weaver is a licensed independent social worker and director of Creating Hope Counseling in Bluffton, Ohio.

Ohio Conference is presenting these training events in conjunction with the Central District Conference.

The registration cost for this training is $25 per person. This fee covers the cost of the training, books and lunch. Any pastor or congregation who has difficulty in paying that amount should contact Andy Stoner, Credentialing Ministry chair, at or 937-450-4482.

The deadline to register for the Dec. 9 training is Friday, Nov. 24. To register, go to

The deadline to register for the Jan. 13 training is Friday, Dec. 29. To register, go to

The deadline to register for the April 21 training is Friday, April 7. To register online, go to

To learn more about Healthy Boundaries, please see the Faith Trust Institute website at