Nov 8, 2017

6 Steps to Prevent Child Abuse from Happening at Your Church

Safety and security must be a top priority of every children's ministry.

It is always crushing to hear about a child who has been abused at a church.

How serious is it?  Look what Jesus says...

"And whoever is a cause of trouble to one of these little ones who have faith in me, it would be better for him if a great stone was put round his neck and he was dropped into the sea." Mark 9:42

Don't think abuse can't happen at your church.  Not one church where it has happened ever thought it would happen at their church.

The Bible reminds us in I Peter 5:8...

"Stay alert.  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." 

We have an enemy who wants to destroy the lives of the children in your church.  An enemy who wants to damage your church's testimony and witness in your community.  An enemy who wants to cause shame and hurt and pain and sorrow in the lives of the families in your church.  

The enemy will try to sneak people into your ministry to abuse the precious children whom God has placed in your care.

How do we stop him?  We do what the Bible tells us in the first part of 1 Peter 5:8, where he is warning us about the enemy. 

We "STAY ALERT" and we "WATCH OUT."

It is the job of every children's ministry leader to walk guard around the ministry and protect God's precious children.  

How can we practically do this?  Let's take a look at 6 steps you can take to prevent the enemy from getting through.  None of these steps are fail-proof by themselves.  It takes putting all of them in place to build a solid wall of protection.  

Step 1 - Thorough On-Boarding Process for Volunteers
Every single volunteer should be taken through an on-boarding process that includes...
  • An application that includes the hard questions that need to be answered like "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" and "Have you ever been accused of abusing a child?" and "Have you had any past addictions to drugs, alcohol or pornography?" and "Is there anything now or in your past that would be a red flag for you serving with children?" (email me and I can send you a sample application)
  • Reference calls should be made.
  • A background check should be done.  
Anyone who has abused a child should NEVER be allowed to serve in children's ministry.  If something pops on the background check like a drug conviction, then you need to have policies in place that guide your decision about letting them service.  An example would be that a person has to be free from addiction for 3 years before they can serve in children's ministry.

Remember this - it is no one's right to serve in children's ministry.  It is a privilege.  The safety and security of the children takes precedence over everything else.

Step 2 - Secure Check-In and Check-Out Process
You must have a secure check-in and check-out process in place.  Parents must present a matching security tag when picking up a child.  No exceptions!  This helps protect children from someone taking them out of the room.  If you are looking for a solid check-in system, be sure to look at KidCheck.

Step 3 - Rule of 2
I believe this step is the most important.  You see, a child abuser could get through the on-boarding process if they have never been caught.  Nothing would show up on their background check and they might be a very good liar in the interview.

That's why you must always, always, always, always abide by the Rule of 2.  This simply means that no one...under any circumstance...is ever alone with a child.  You never open a classroom until there are 2 volunteers in the room.  If a child has to be walked to the bathroom, 2 people take the child.  A child is never counseled alone by an adult.  A staff member or volunteer never rides alone with a child in a car or church van.  

I know a great church that is going through the heartbreak of a child being abused on their church property.  They had all of these steps in place, but a key volunteer, with no prior history of known abuse, molested a child.  How did this happen?  Somehow...at some point...the rule of 2 was not followed. 

The Rule of 2 must always be kept if you are going to prevent abuse.

Step 4 - Room Visibility
You should be able to see into every room from the hallway.  This includes the nursery, preschool rooms, elementary rooms, offices, breakout rooms, resource rooms, etc.  This helps eliminate the chances of something happening behind closed doors.

Step 5 - Cameras
Cameras should be installed in every classroom, hallway and common area where kids will be.  Everyone should be made aware that the cameras are there and that they are being monitored.  

Step 6 - Limited Access to Your Children's Ministry Areas
Only approved volunteers should be allowed in your children's ministry areas.  And volunteers in the children's ministry areas should be clearly identified by a name tag at the minimum.

Use these steps to build your wall of protection.  Build it strong and walk guard around the precious children God has placed in your ministries' care.

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