NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The headlines hit far too often: Another church is the subject of an abuse allegation.
Ministries are forced to deal with the fallout. And an innocent child is victimized in one of the places he or she should feel most secure.
Child abuse allegations affect ministries nationwide. Sadly, abuse has no regard for church size, denomination or location, says Kathleen Turpin, a vice president with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, which partners with GuideStone Financial Resources to provide property and casualty insurance.
GuideStone is offering a presentation at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday (June 20) in New Orleans to detail what can be done to lessen the risks of abuse within churches. SBC messengers must pre-register for the free session, to be held in Room 252 in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. To register, visit www.GuideStone.org/SBC2012 or by stop by the GuideStone booth in the SBC exhibit hall.
Among tips Turpin addresses in the GuideStone seminar: The most effective response is prevention. Simply, develop a child protection policy, then follow through.
A successful program should have basic and easy-to-follow procedures tailored to the specific ministry, Turpin says, and all ministry leadership should invest in the program and make sure that mandatory reporting is part of the policy.
“You want to make sure you have screened all employees and volunteers,” Turpin says. Membership requirements and a volunteer waiting period also are cornerstones of a successful program.
While many churches have a screening procedure, Turpin recommends even smaller churches have a robust screening procedure that includes screening everybody at the start — not just new employees or volunteers — requesting at least two references and actually checking those references.
One thing to keep in mind, Turpin says, is to know the state mandatory reporting requirements. Failure to report allegations of child abuse in a timely way may make a ministry and its workers subject to civil and criminal liability. Staff and volunteers should be retrained on reporting procedures on a regular basis.
During the GuideStone course, Turpin also addresses dealing with whether churches should allow sex offenders in the church and the risks and consequences of allowing offenders in the church.
GuideStone and Brotherhood Mutual have teamed to make resources available to help churches protect themselves from a host of church insurance-related issues; go to www.GuideStonePropertyCasualty.org and select the Safety Toolkit link.
Roy Hayhurst is editorial services manager at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.