Protection is a Must for Churches, by Bill Emeott
Nashville, Tennessee, 5.19.08
From all outward signs, John seemed to be a wonderful sixth-grade boys' Sunday School teacher. He prepared, attended leadership meetings, participated in outreach and even spent time with the boys outside of Sunday School. But something went wrong.
It was late one Wednesday evening when the call came to the pastor's home. A parent of one of John's students began to share incredible accusations. "Know that the church will be hearing from our attorney," was the final comment.
Completely bewildered, the pastor sought the advice of a local attorney. The attorney's first question was, "What does your church do to ensure that minors (anyone under the age of 18) are protected from abusive conduct by adults?" The sick feeling in the pastor's stomach grew as he confessed, "Nothing."
Reports of abusive conduct toward children by adults are shocking. One doesn't have to look far to see how wide spread such accounts have become. It is estimated that one out of every four girls and one out of six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18. Churches cannot expect to remain unaffected by this problem.
So, what is a church to do? The answer is: Everything possible to screen and monitor those working with minors at church!
Implementing safety and security policies is no longer an option. Standard policies, including the "6/2" rule, are a must. This simple policy states that anyone working with children or youth must be an active member of your church for at least six months before assuming a position of leadership, and that there will be at least two adults in the room with minors at all times. These easy-to-implement policies will go far in discouraging predators.
Next, include a Volunteer Worker Application and follow-up interview as part of your policies. Having current and prospective leaders compete an application form and conducting formal interviews with each will show your church, your community, and possible predators that your church is watching and concerned for the safety of children.
Protection policies are incomplete without an official criminal background check. Many insurance companies are requiring churches to complete checks as a prerequisite to coverage. Completing background checks on every adult working directly with minors demonstrates a desire and intent to protect children.
The bottom line is: It is our responsibility to protect minors at church. Yes, it may be difficult transition and sometimes uncomfortable, but protection is not an option. The mental, emotional, and spiritual development of children is at stake. Don't ignore the possibilities. Ensure that your church is a loving and safe environment for children to grow in their relationship with their Lord and His church.
(DOM note: The SBC website at www.sbc.net has numerous pages of information and resources available. Our association is developing the capability to do background checks for our churches, and will announce this soon. This process, while perhaps uncomfortable, will not only protect children and youth to a large extent, it will also protect churches, pastors and other staff, and also the workers themselves from false or confused accusation, IF they follow the strict guidelines put in place by a congregation. More and more insurance companies are refusing to insure churches who do not have such a policy in place. I encourage you to get ahead of the game by taking the steps NOW to have such a policy by this fall of 2008.)