Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse in the Church (1)
Once again many of us are talking about the dread evil of child abuse. As recent history proves, churches are vulnerable to predators and must, therefore, take serious measures to protect their children. This means churches must heighten their awareness of the problem, sharpen their policies, and strengthen their resolve to take action.
This is the first post of several which will offer a list of actions and attitudes that will go a long way in protecting a church from child predators. Among the issues I will address is what a church is to do with a convicted offender who professes faith in Christ and desires to attend services.
We will never be rid of predators so long as we are south of Heaven. Unfortunately churches are typically soft targets. Many predators are skillful at hiding in plain sight. They are successful at what they do precisely because they are good at disguising their wicked actions. So no church should ever assume that it has somehow shielded itself from all risk. But there are many common sense actions churches can take to reduce the risk of child abuse.
1. Churches must possess a formally approved child protection policy that is consistently applied.
If your church does not have a formal child protection policy in writing then stop what you are doing and begin the work of securing one. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are denominations and churches aplenty which have done the hard work of composing comprehensive child protection policies (CPP). You may contact the church I serve (Covenant Presbyterian Church) and request a copy of our CPP.
Of course, a CPP is only as good as the willingness of the church’s leadership to enforce it. Simply having a good policy will not, as though by magic, provide a protective shield against abuse. So, a strong measure of resolve must be employed. And this is not easy. If enforcing a child protection policy consistently is new for your church then you can expect some pushback. Some who have been serving in youth or children’s ministry for years may well resent what to them will seem like restrictive boundaries or a lack of trust.
Good communication, therefore, is essential. If your church is adopting a new CPP (or simply beginning to enforce it consistently for the first time) then the appropriate leadership will need to meet with the children’s and youth workers. Explain to them that it is not your desire to communicate a lack of trust in those who serve faithfully. Rather, such policies consistently applied are a necessary feature of church life in a fallen world. You must not allow sentiment to sway you from applying the CPP conistently.
It does not matter how well you think you know someone in the church. It matters not how long so-and-so has been serving (Remember what we have already said about successful predators). You must insist that everyone working with children and youth in your church comply at all points with the policy. That includes submitting to a background check. If Aunt Millie who everyone has known for 40 years refuses to comply then she should not be allowed to work with children. Simply put, anyone worthy of working with other people’s children will understand the current climate and willingly submit to the stipulations of a wise policy.
A good CPP will include:
A police background check for every worker
A requirement for multiple adults in each room
A strict policy governing bathroom visits
A requirement of church membership for all workers
2. Have plenty of windows in your children’s ministry space.
Each children’s ministry room ought to be equipped with a large window on the door and/or on an indoor facing wall so that at any time a passerby can look in and observe the activity. There should be no blind corners in a room used for children’s ministry. The design of your children's ministry space ought to invite oppenness.
3. Equip your children’s ministry spaces with cameras.
Each room and hallway ought to have domed security cameras with the images being fed directly onto a computer hard drive. This is for the protection of all involved. I cannot think of a single good reason for a church to not be equipped with this technology.
To be continued...