Abuse, Child Safety and Your Assembly

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves…” (Luke 17:1-3a)

This is a very sobering verse, and is definitely applicable today.

The why’s

Safety and protection ultimately belong to the Lord, our shield and our defender.

Our God, who is the Father of the Fatherless, and who solemnly warns of placing a stumbling block before a child, would not have a problem with believers exercising the wisdom of serpents in the area of child safety.

Our world of 2017 isn’t changing, it has changed. The internet, coupled with the transient nature of our population, has made the issue of child predators one that cannot be ignored by the church.

It has been ignored, for far too long, and predators know that. Churches statistically are prime hunting grounds for those who wish to do harm to the vulnerable. This is because churches often confuse forgiveness and grace with trust. We extend second chances to the guilty when we should be more concerned with protecting the innocent.

It’s a big problem

The problem is not that we willingly invite people to harm our children. It is that we are not proactive in protecting our children. We are negligent and passive, when we should be vigilant.

God is not glorified when we allow the vulnerable in our midst to be preyed upon.

Can I say that again?

God is not glorified when we allow the vulnerable in our midst to be preyed upon. When we close our eyes to the threat and complacently say, “abuse wouldn’t/couldn’t happen here.”

God is not glorified when accusations of abuse are made against a believer, church or Christian organization. God is not glorified when those accusations are proven to be true. God is not glorified when the situation could have been prevented in the first place.

There are life long repercussions for victims of abuse. God, in His grace, is able to restore and renew and heal. And He does, time and time again.

But, that does not relieve us of our responsibility to the defenseless. Let’s not be passively complicit, when we should be proactive, and err on the side of caution and responsibility.

The first step is to write, implement and enforce a child safety policy.

The wherefore’s

Most church general liability insurance policies include a clause requiring a written child safety policy. (check the small print, or the policy itself)

In addition, industry standard for child safety usually involves five components:

  1. a written child safety policy
  2. a written application
  3. criminal background checks
  4. contacting of character references
  5. annual, mandatory training meetings on child safety

When crafting a child safety policy, you should include the requirements of application: background check, character references, and training, as well as the definition of abuse, a two-adult rule, how you will respond to accusations of abuse, and how exactly you will keep the children safe. This can include check-in/check-out procedures, as well as discipline, illness, restroom guidelines, and accidental injury.

(for an editable child safety policy, check out this protectionpolicy)

In conclusion

I feel like it goes with out saying, but having a child safety policy is not enough. We actually have to enforce the child safety policy that we’ve written. It might be inconvenient, there might be push back, but it does no good if it isn’t implemented. This is the standard-no exceptions.

Let’s provide a safe and secure environment for the children who participate in our programs and activities. Let’s protect the children from incidents of misconduct or inappropriate behavior while also protecting our people from false accusations. Let’s glorify God in all we say and do.

Bernadette Veenstra
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