I have been reading and watching closely what has been going on in the Southern Baptist Churches concerning sexual abuse cases.
I have been a Christian since 1973 and have seen a lot and learned a lot about human nature. Being in ministry for a long time made me realize that whenever I think I have heard the worst story, there is still worse that I have not heard.
And yet, why were we all surprised to hear about the news of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist churches? As I mention in my book, there is no place that we can call totally safe. Yet, we, as churches and as individuals need to learn and be alert to prevent this from happening again. People in ministry- are just that: people. They are humans who are tempted, who struggle with sin and who have history and baggage.
The real problem is that folks think that any one in ministry is hol-ier than others and that certainly isn’t true.
And yet, what is the role of the church? How can we, as a church deal wisely and biblically with such a heinous situation? How can we prevent those indicted predators from spilling their venom on our children, teens and adults yet at the same time showing them the love of Jesus?
- Don’t shove talk about sexual abuse
under the carpet
The whole church needs to be trained and to be made aware of all aspects of sexual abuse and its prevention. ALL the church. This includes pastors, ministers, people working with kids, parents and teens. Why? Because not learning about sexual abuse actually works in the predator’s favor. The predator who depends on keeping his/ her act a secret. The more we teach our church society about the grooming process that the predator uses to seduce a person to keep sexual abuse silent, the better off our churches will be. You can learn more here.
What I am talking about here is not a one time thing, it has to be an ongoing training at least twice a year so that information and awareness will always be top of mind.
Who needs to be trained
- All new and existing employees/volunteers.
- Children/ teens in the care of your church
2- Every church needs to have a clear code of conduct and reporting system that is posted on posters all over the church:
Are people working in the church, whether employees or volunteers made aware of where the church stands concerning sexual abuse reporting? Are there visible posters to teach attendants what to do if a case is reported? Do you tell them during the hiring process about your expectations concerning this matter?
A code of conduct is the most important tool a church will develop to help establish boundaries between adults and children/ teens. It is a written overview of the organization’s expectations regarding interactions with children/ teens, and it outlines that discipline will be enforced if expectations are not met. An organization should post its code of conduct and readily share it with everyone.
3- Back Checks are not
It’s true that the media have splashed that there were indicted predators that have been volunteering with kids and teens in churches. Yes, back checks are fine, but there are hundreds of predators that will never be reported because of the shame, the guilt and the stigma connected with reporting. And even if the person is reported, making the crime stick is not an easy task.
Did you know criminal record checks do NOT:
- Identify arrests that did not result in convictions
- Necessarily include convictions from other jurisdictions
Did you know child abuse registry checks do NOT:
• Capture every individual who has abused a child
Go to twitter accounts like
#TraumaSurvivorsofsexualabuse and #WhyIDidReport #WhyIDidntReport #ChurchToo to read story after story
after story about thousands who have never reported their abuse.
4. Manage Risk:
Child/ teen sex offenders will take advantage of environments that are unsafe, lack protocols and supervision, and are careless in managing risks. Your Church needs to create a clear plan to reduce risk in the following areas:
- Organizational culture
- Programs, activities and services
- Physical space and environment
- Reporting abuse
- Suspension and dismissal
5- Hire the Right People
Sex offenders do not look strange or act creepy. Rather than judging a candidate based on appearance, pay attention to situations and behaviors. Be aware of adults who seem to cross boundaries with children/ teens or have distorted perceptions of appropriate relationships. Ask situational and behavioral questions like:
- What would you do if a child/ teen in your church said s/he was attracted to you?
- What age or gender do you like to work with? Why? Give some examples of your experience with this age group.
Supervise and Monitor
Orientation, supervision, and monitoring are required to keep children/ teens safe in your church. Child sexual abuse is more likely to occur in churches that do not have these adequate structures in place.
Pose those questions:
What key policies and procedures do new employees/ volunteers need to understand in order to work with children in the organization?
What do new employees/volunteers need to understand to avoid inappropriate behavior and prevent child sexual abuse?
Monitoring performance allows supervisors to instantly address behaviors that require corrective action. This could prevent the inappropriate conduct from continuing or escalating to sexual abuse, and will help deter similar conduct in the future. Supervision should begin the first day a new employee/volunteer starts and should continue throughout employment.
7- Report Abuse and Misconduct
Children can only be protected if suspicions of child abuse or inappropriate behavior are reported and action is taken. Only 10% of abuse cases are actually reported.
A complaint may not seem like cause for concern when considered in isolation; however, when considered with other actions, behaviors, or complaints, may require serious and immediate action.
8. Increase likelihood of reporting
Employees and volunteers are more likely to report if:
- They know they are legally obligated to act even on suspicions of abuse, and that they do not have to prove abuse
- The organization has a clear code of conduct, and policies and procedures regarding reporting
- They are clear about the process of reporting
- They know the church will support them
- Confidentiality is maintained
9- Policies and Procedures
In order to prevent child sexual abuse in organizations, child protection policies and procedures are essential. Such documents clearly state what will and will not be permitted by your church. Policies create barriers for sex offenders; the more regulations in place, the less likely an offender will want to work there.
10- Create your child/ teen protection manual
This is where you consolidate everything your church has learned by creating a child/teen protection manual. The manual is a summary of how your organization will use policies and procedures to protect the children in your care.
How can we as
a church win wars on abortion or any other Goliaths if we do not tackle the
lion and the bear that attacks our own flock?
When David killed a lion and a-bear who attacked his flock it was this training that made him fit to face Goliath.
This in no way is a call to killing predators since they too are people who need help, but this is a call to stand up intelligently against sexual abuse in our churches.
If you like this, please share it with your friends and family.
contact me here