The Penn State Child Abuse Tragedy...20 Safeguards to Keep It From Happening In Your Ministry

The sexual abuse tragedy at Penn State has shocked the nation.  My heart breaks for the kids who were abused.  It should serve as a reminder to every church and children's ministry.  We must walk guard around the children God has entrusted us with.  Their safety must be a top priority.

The more safeguards you have in place, the safer the children in your ministry will be.  Here are some key safeguards to have in place.
  1. Personally interview everyone before they join your team.  Look them in the eye and ask them the hard questions.  If you'd like a copy of our interview questions, contact me at and I'll be glad to email you a copy.
  2. Run a background check on everyone before they serve.
  3. Re-run background checks every 2-3 years.
  4. Ask for 3 references and actually call them.  Ask key questions to the references.  If you'd like a copy of our reference questions, feel free to contact me.
  5. Have everyone go through an orientation before they start serving.  Cover safety policies and procedures.  Have everyone read them carefully and sign that they will abide by them.
  6. Never, never, never, never, never, never have anyone alone with a child.  No exceptions.
  7. When kids have to go to the bathroom, have the two adults who are taking them to the bathroom go in and make sure the bathroom is clear.  Then have the adults wait outside the door while the child is in the bathroom.
  8. Have a security tag system in place.  No one can pick up a child without a matching security tag.
  9. Only allow women to change diapers. 
  10. Every room should have a window where you can look in.
  11. Have a security camera in every room and hallway.
  12. Do not allow men to hold children on their laps. 
  13. Be careful about hugging children.  If you do hug a child, it should be a sideways hug. 
  14. Go back over your policies and procedures on a regular basis.
  15. Do not open a room until you have at least two adults in the room.
  16. Do not allow volunteers to have groups of kids over to their house without the parents and a staff member being present.
  17. A husband and wife serving in a room together only count as one adult.  Have another adult with them.
  18. Do not personally zip up children's pants if they ask for help.  Instead, assist them by telling them what to do.  If they still cannot get the zipper up, then call their parents to come assist.
  19. Have a written plan that you follow when child abuse or neglect is suspected. 
  20. Never, never, never, never allow anyone to serve in children's ministry who has abused or neglected a child. 
It only takes one incident to mar your church's testimony and destroy what it took years to build.  Anytime I hear the name "Penn State' now, I will automatically associate it with child abuse.  Some of the safeguards above may seem extreme, but you have to take extreme measures if you're going to protect the children.  Walk guard carefully and say "Not on my watch!"

Posted by Dale Hudson