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Painting by Numbers

The readings at my church on Sunday were about numbers, with one being drawn appropriately form the book of Numbers. The 70 chosen by Moses, the 72 sent out by Jesus and we had a passing reference to the seven deacons of the early church. A lot of mathematics to take in on a Sunday morning, but the message was clear: it’s about sharing the tasks, identifying roles and developing a team spirit. However much we sometimes try we can’t do it all by ourselves and it’s OK to seek help.

Readers of this blog will spot a recurring theme here – safeguarding is a big team effort and not the technical or administrative preserve of a solitary person. We may not need the precisely defined high numbers prescribed by Moses and Jesus, but the team approach really does work best. The early church had it right when it started to identify the additional roles that needed to be fulfilled if the pastoral needs of the young church’s members were to be properly met.

Some of us of a certain age may recall getting ‘painting by numbers’ sets for Christmas or birthdays. If you painted with care, keeping to the printed lines of the picture boards provided and as prescribed by the chart that told you which numbered colour to paint where, you could produce a passable piece of artwork that you could offer back to your aunt and uncle. But there was no room for any ambiguity, no scope for shading or nuance and blurring only happened when you made a calamitous mistake. So although doing it by the book and following instructions worked well, you could tell it was a static piece that perhaps lacked flourish.

The 70, 72 and 7 had their instructions and no doubt set about their allotted tasks with varying degrees of skill and enthusiasm. The 72 went out two by two so there was no doubt a chance to bounce ideas off one another as they walked, agreeing who might be best placed to do which bit of the job. No doubt the 7 deacons met to decide who should do what, how to organise the distribution of food to widows and meet the other pastoral needs they had identified.

So although you can do safeguarding well by painting the numbers and having exemplary records, doing it as a team with other colleagues who can offer practical advice and guidance and reflect with care on how to make policies come alive in their intention is a good rounded way of meeting the church’s overall expectations.

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