…How’d you go at reading the above words? Unless you speak Chinese, Korean, Thai and Burmese, you probably didn’t go so well, huh? Understanding a language that isn’t your own can be hard – at times impossible.
To help protect vulnerable people, including children, the Baptist Association has created the Safe Church Package of model documents We have also produced the Safe Church Health Check and Creating Safe Spaces training to help implement these principles more broadly. But these documents were written in English; what happens when language differences means some people can’t access these important materials?
With many members of Chinese backgrounds, affiliated church Central Baptist Church (CBC) have made significant efforts towards translating some of our Safe Church Health Check model templates into Simplified (Mandarin) and Traditional (Cantonese) Chinese. Their Safe Church team is made up of six members, including Deacon Rudolf Chung. “The Baptist Association has taken the initiative to respond to the Royal Commission. During the journey of reading their Safe Church templates, we realised that CBC is made up of primarily Mandarin or Cantonese-speaking brothers and sisters,” Rudolf explains, “So when we looked at those templates, we thought: how can we help our congregation understand these documents, and all their ‘legalese’? Naturally, it made sense to translate them!” Though not professional translators, the CBC safe church team worked together to translate and peer-review/edit. “We want it to be useful – not just, ‘oh, you just banged the whole paragraph into Google Translate and said here you go!’” Rudolf says. “We didn’t do that because we recognise that nuances are important – it needs to be meaningful to the audience, not just literal word-to-word translating.”
CBC’s Safe Church team have very generously shared their translated templates with some of our other LOTE (languages other than English) churches. “We are aligned in our willingness to share what started off as being for internal use with others if it proves beneficial to them,” Rudolf says. “I think that’s just one way for Baptist churches, under the Association, to galvanise our identity; It’s not just everyone on their own – rather, we share a vision, we share values, and so naturally we can share the fruits of our labour. Often, congregations have a localised mindset of church and are all about their own internal needs. But there are benefits to reaching out to other churches, and we are starting to understand the importance of thinking that way…It also gives us a bit more incentive to not do a half-hearted job because it’s just for internal purposes! Rather, we put ourselves in other people’s shoes.”
Andrew Schachtel is on the Safe Church team at Wollongong Baptist Church, which has a Chinese congregation. They realised that they would have trouble explaining Safe Church policies and procedures to some of those who are not mother-tongue English speaking. They also wanted to be prepared to meet the legal requirements for their different ethnic congregations. They looked into getting the Safe Church documents professionally translated, and found that this would be very costly. In the Chinese congregation, there are church members who technically could translate into Cantonese and Mandarin, but they are quite busy. So, Andrew contacted Dr Katie Watson, Safe Church Coordinator at the Association, for help. Although the Association did not have the resources to undertake translation work directly, they could connect a group of LOTE churches and facilitate shared knowledge. “The power of cooperation was evident when we were put onto Central Baptist. It’s great that the Baptist Association does have this central body that can alert you to other groups who have similar issues,” Andrew says. “It was very helpful that Central Baptist were so deliberate about this and had already been painstakingly translating, and then were happy to share with us. That was very kind and will save us a lot of trouble. All that our Chinese congregation will need to do now is insert ‘Wollongong Baptist’ at the relevant parts of the documents! Sometimes, governance-wise, each Baptist church acts as an entity on its own; semi-autonomous. So to realise that we can do things together was a powerful experience.”
“Sometimes, governance-wise, each Baptist church acts as an entity on its own; semi-autonomous. So to realise that we can do things together was a powerful experience.”
Katie Watson shares a similar sentiment from her experience of supporting churches. “It is so encouraging to see the diversity of churches across our movement and their commitment to genuinely addressing Safe Church issues. From small rural churches to multi-campus churches with hundreds of volunteers, across the breadth of geography, culture, age and language, Baptist churches are adapting the principles to their context. It is so encouraging to help churches support one another whether the challenge is language, technology, or regional context. We really are stronger together.”
The Safe Church Package is available in Chinese (traditional and simplified) and Korean. View them here.
Our Creating Safe Spaces training has recently been completely updated and will also be available in Chinese and Korean.
Some of our churches have congregations that speak languages other than Chinese and Korean. If you’d like to assist in translating documents into another language, contact firstname.lastname@example.org