With summer almost upon us, churches are gearing up for VBS, youth camp, and summer children’s activities. Before you stock up on marshmallows for chubby bunny, change the oil in the church van, and assemble that grass hut out of cardboard boxes and paper bags, there’s something else you need to think about.
Are your church’s child protection policies in place?
This is not fun stuff to talk about. But it is necessary, especially in light of recent events. Many of you who follow this blog are ministry wives or are in church leadership. If your church already has child protection policies in place, great. Follow them. If you don’t, establishing a robust child protection policy needs to be a priority. I know it’s not fun. No one wants to ask Mrs. Cindy Lou Who who has served in the nursery for 70 years to all of a sudden do a background check. But we must. Child protection policies keep your church, your workers, and your children safe.
Here are 6 reasons your church needs a child protection policy.
Because Satan is evil.
Satan’s goal is always our destruction, and children are not exempt. If he has the opportunity to attack a child through molestation or abuse, Satan sees it as fair game. And if he gets a chance to make that abuse happen on the church’s watch, it’s just bonus points. Hitting a family, a child, and a church all in one stroke? That’s a good day for the devil, and we need to be on our guard to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Because abuse can happen anywhere.
I know we all think it won’t happen at our church. We know everyone. We’ve got good people. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen here. Those are dangerous thoughts. Abuse is not restricted to certain zip codes. Abuse can happen anywhere a predator has access to vulnerable children–including your church. We cannot be so naive as to think it can’t happen to us. See point number 1.
Because abusers don’t look like the boogeyman.
I don’t want to pile on the Duggars. I can only imagine the agony of recognizing that one of your children has molested another, though it is concerning that the abuse was not properly reported at the time it took place. Josh Duggar says this inescusable behavior is behind him. For his sake and the sake of his family I hope it is so. Josh recieved counseling. I hope his victims also received the counseling and support they needed to heal.
The Duggar story reminds us that abusers don’t look like the boogeyman. A typical abuser is not the creepy guy down the street or a trench-coat wearing stranger. Abusers can look like a family member. They can look like coaches, camp counselors, or Sunday School teachers. Abusers are able to gain trust. That’s what gives them the opportunity to perpetuate their abuse. We have to let go of this idea that we’ll know them when we see them. We don’t.
Because child protection policies protect your workers.
Every report of abuse must be taken seriously. Let me say that again. Every report of abuse must be taken seriously. If we suspect or are informed about abuse, we are legally and ethically obligated to report it. And yet, we know that sometimes people lie. Sometimes people lie because they know churches have liability insurance and they’re hoping for a settlement. Sometimes people lie because they’re mad and want to get at you. Sometimes they lie because they’re covering up their own actions. Shaken baby syndrome? Let’s blame the nursery worker. Good child protection policies such as having two adults in the room at all times protect your workers from false accusations.
Because child protection policies protect your church.
Child protection policies protect your church in several ways. Robust child protection polices prevent opportunities for abuse to take place and make your church a less attractive target for an abuser. Your liability insurance company may require your church to adopt a child protection policy to ensure coverage. Also, even if your church has liability insurance your church can still be vulnerable if you do not have a child protection policy in place. Our church was advised that if we did not have a child protection policy our trustees could be sued individually if abuse took place. Adopting and following a good child protection policy can reduce your church’s risk of liability.
Because child protection policies protect children.
Jesus has entrusted our church’s children into our care. Church should be a safe place for our children. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure that our children are protected when they walk through our doors. A good child protection policy creates an environment where our children are safe but abusers are not. By eliminating opportunities for abuse and putting abusers at risk of discovery, we can make our churches an unwelcome place for those who would harm our children.
Having a good child protection policy in place is a matter of due diligence. At the minimum, a child protection policy should include background checks for all workers, a two adult policy, and abuse prevention training for preschool, children’s and youth workers. Training should include types of abuse, signs of abuse, appropriate touch, and how to report abuse. Your denomination or state convention can guide you in finding appropriate resources.
What policies does your church have to protect children? What resources would you suggest?
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