Why you need to be prepared
Our houses of worship are our Sacred Spaces; they are the physical buildings where people gather to experience spiritual growth and find comfort, encouragement, healing and more. It is critical that we are proactive in keeping all those who enter the doors safe from danger or harm.
Child sexual abuse inflicted within the walls of our churches has emotionally and spiritually scarred hundreds, even thousands, of people when they were victimized by those who should have been the most trustworthy.
Predators are often highly charismatic, likeable people who are able to gain the trust of both adults and children in the process of grooming their victims. Most people would probably not have guessed that Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky was a sexual predator; similarly, there may be “model citizens” in your congregation that you would never guess are predators.
A 1996 study in Hammar’s Church Law and Tax Report found that volunteer workers committed half of all sexual misconduct offences in churches. Paid staff or clergy constituted 30% of the cases, and the remaining 20% were committed by other children (peer-to-peer abuse).
We owe our children every effort in our power to protect them from this type of harm.
Background Checks: Important but not enough
We strongly recommend conducting background checks on ALL child care workers and volunteers – a fairly simple and inexpensive process.
Resources to guide you through background checks include:
- ChurchStaffing.com (http://www.churchstaffing.com/background-checks/)
- ProtectMyMinistry.com (http://protectmyministry.com/background-checks/online-consultation/)
While they are important, please note that background checks are not enough to flag all potential abusers. Less than 10 percent of sexual abusers will ever encounter the criminal justice system.
Child care workers should be trained to prevent and recognize child sexual abuse, as well as to identify signs of grooming and predatory behavior in adults.
There are very affordable online training programs available that can help convey this knowledge as well as help you design policies, procedures and accountability that will keep the children in your congregation safe.
We recommend MinistrySafe.
In addition to training, it is important to implement and enforce policies for the protection of children (see Section 6).