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FIRST-PERSON: Protecting children

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–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 unbelievable 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 widespread such accounts have become. Researchers estimate that one out of every four girls and one out of six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse by age 18. Churches cannot expect to remain unaffected by the problem.

So what is a church to do? Everything possible to screen and monitor people who work 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 complete 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 that it is our responsibility to protect minors at church. Yes, it may be a 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.
Bill Emeott is lead childhood ministry specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources. Go to http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/files/lwcF_CM_-_Confidential_Volunteer_Worker_Application.pdf for the sample Volunteer Worker Application.

    About the Author

  • Bill Emeott