A pastor was approached by a man who had been a youth pastor. The man had been convicted of sexual assault years before when he was a youth pastor. The man told the pastor that he desired to get back into youth ministry. The pastor asked the man, “should I trust you with my kids?” The man paused for a minute and then replied, “probably not.”
That was one of the stories I heard tonight as I sat through a seminar by Southern Mutual Insurance Company. This is one area of ministry that most people shutter to even think about. It’s confusing and frightening when you start thinking about child abuse, and the threat of it, inside our church walls.
To think it will never happen in your church is swinging the church doors open wide for any sexual predator. If you spend a little while on google and news websites you can accumulate a large list of articles on sexual abuse of minors that occurred in churches across the world. Abuse, not just by church leadership, but by people that took advantage of the church culture.
The Christian church culture is one of trust. Jesus displayed an enormous amount of trust in individuals, even when he knew they would fail. The church has a disposition of overlooking past faults in the effort for a better, brighter future. Sometimes, that can come back to bite the church in harmful ways. That’s always going to happen when dealing with broken people.
One of the main causes of child abuse in the church setting is the hiring of staff and volunteers without vetting them as a regular business or child care organization would. Churches can often go by what we feel or think, and dislike the possibility of offending a volunteer by requesting a background check or waiting period.
Here’s another story told in the seminar:
A pastor complained to their insurance agent that the church was giving him a lot of grief about some of the safeguards he put in place. The eldars didn’t like it, the parents didn’t like it. He was thinking about getting rid of his child safety policy. Upon the encouragement of the agent, he kept the policy in place.
One Sunday a couple came to church and the man approached the pastor. He told the pastor he had a burden for children and wanted to work with them in the ministry. The pastor said that was wonderful but their policy was to have a 6-month waiting period before hiring anyone. Soon, the man left, offended.
In a matter of months, the man was arrested for child abuse in a church where he was placed into children’s ministry. The church didn’t give the pastor any grief about the safety policy after that.
Watch the video on the top right of this page. Below is some highlights of the video.
- Withdrawal from their friends, family, and faith.
- Rebell against authority.
- Education suffers as their academics decline.
- Prone to run away from home.
- Abuse drugs and alcohol.
- Develop a variety of phobias and fears.
- Have poor self-esteem.
- More promiscuos.
- They have a much higher chance of becoming an abuser themselves.
Here are some ways child abuse affects the church:
- Shattered community of trust.
- Congregational discord and devastation of ministry.
- Litigation & Financial costs
- Spiritual Dammage
What can churches do to protect themselves from child abuse and allegations?
- Develop a climate of open discussion.
- Become educated in laws and issues regarding children’s safety.
- Recognize the equal value of people. Don’t protect one at the expense of another.
- Discuss and solve problems openly.
- Make people feel obligated to report without fear of reprisal.
- Stay accountable.
- Stay consistent.
Selecting Volunteers and Workers
1. have a written policy in place approved by church leadership.
- Have an attorney approve the policy.
- Model it after child/youth service organizations in your state.
- Base it on the scripture.
2. Use an application process
- Written applications you can keep on file.
- Have written job descriptions.
- Conduct Interviews.
- Screen Applicants.
- Institute a waiting period. (6 months?)
- Check the references!
- Conduct background checks for convictions.
- Utilize training for dealing with children.
- Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company
- National Center for Victims of Crime
- National Children’s Alliance
- Child Welfare (government)
- Darkness 2 Light
- Church Volunteer Central