Protecting Our Young Ones

It is a wickedness of massive proportions when children are sexually abused. However, when a child is used for the sexual gratification of a spiritual leader within the church the evil passes into the realm of the indescribable. Sadly this particular manifestation of evil has lurked within the walls of the church for generations. It has only been in recent years, however, that the extent of child sexual abuse within the church is beginning to be revealed. What is more, it is becoming clear that Protestants have nothing to brag about. We cannot shake our finger at the Roman Catholic Church as though priests are more susceptible to this sin than are pastors and ministry directors. Child sexual abuse honors no sectarian boundaries.

At the risk of stating the obvious, churches must take pains to protect the children under their care. We are well beyond the days of politely giving so-and-so the benefit of the doubt because he's been working with children for years. Criminal background checks ought to be mandatory for all persons serving in any capacity with children or youth. In the church I serve as Lead Pastor anyone interested in serving among children must submit to a background check. Unwilling? Tough.

Background checks however are not enough. There must be stringent rules restricting adults from being alone with a child for any length of time. "But we know so-and-so." Not as well as you think. There should be cameras in every hallway and, more importantly in every classroom with the data being stored on computer.

Many churches have welcomed into membership those who have offended in the past but have repented and paid their legal debt. Certainly, the church of Jesus Christ has a message of forgiveness and hope for any sinner who repents. However, let us not be so naive and sentimental that we think it is a badge of graciousness to place a repentant offender into a position of ministry with our young ones. They must never be allowed to work with children or youth in any capacity. If you insist on this standard (and you most certainly should) then you will be accused of "not getting the gospel." That's fine. Just keep reminding yourself that someone has to be the grown-up.

Incidentally, a truly repentant offender will understand this. He or she will, out of deference to the parents of the church and in an effort to guard themselves from temptation, not desire to work with children or youth. Their concern will be for the well being of the young ones.

If this sounds a bit extreme then get used to it. Every adult in every church should understand that we live in a world of sexual brokenness. We live in a world where predators hide quite effectively among the rest of us. They look like us. They act like us. They may have even convinced themselves that they will never offend again. But this self-deception is part of their sickness.

If, after all your efforts to protect the young ones in your church from a predator, the unthinkable happens then do not compound the tragedy by covering it up. You have a moral and legal responsibility to report accusations of child sexual abuse. It is not "gospel-centered" to get the child to forgive his abuser. For the sake of those who have been victimized shine the light on it.

Julie Lowe of CCEF has published some helpful reminders about "the legal and biblical mandate to report" HERE.