Churches are not immune from child abuse. In fact, the opposite may be true, and we must not ignore the threat. We must take steps to prevent child abuse at church.
In his book, On Guard, Deepak Reju explains many reasons why sexual offenders prey on churches, one being the naivety and ignorance of Christians. We tend to confuse likability and trustworthiness (the two are not the same), and we want to be hopeful about relationships because we believe God has the power to change anyone. We dismiss any doubt or skepticism about people, aiming instead to give them the benefit of the doubt. A sexual offender aims to exploit these Christian ideals.
“Many reports indicate that precisely because sexual predators target trusting environments where children are present, the incidence of child abuse is actually higher in the Christian community. Indeed, 90% of registered sex offenders claim to be “religious” or “very religious” (source).
If a predator is roaming around your church, he is probably not a stranger to you. More than likely, he is someone whom you already know, like, and do not see as a threat to your children. (Deepak Reju)
Resources for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse at Church
Taking an honest look at our awareness, knowledge, and policies is imperative to preventing child sexual abuse in our churches.
The best resource I’ve found for learning about and preventing child sexual abuse in the church is :: On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church.
Do not allow this blog post to substitute purchasing the book and reading and applying its wisdom.
Order the resource. Read it. Apply it.
While you wait for your book to arrive, I want to draw your attention to two important ways to prevent child sexual abuse in your church.
How to Prevent Child Abuse in Churches and Non-Profit Organizations
Require background checks.
Require and run background checks on any and all volunteers working with or around children. However, please know – running background checks is a small piece to the puzzle. Background checks will not catch all predators.
In fact, many churches only run background checks on people 18 years old or older, but in 43% of assaults on children under 6 years old, the offender is a juvenile — under 18 (source). A background check would never catch that.
Additionally, an estimated 90% of sex offenders don’t have criminal records and may go undetected without the proper training of your volunteers and staff to identify signs of abuse and how to handle reporting of abuse (source).
Implement a Child Protection Policy
Simply having a child protection policy isn’t good enough.
Repeatedly train your volunteers on your child protection policy. Inform parents of it. Stick to it, and enforce it. A child protection policy does you no good if people don’t know it and the church doesn’t implement it.
How often I’ve seen churches have a policy but not even know what the policy states! Staff and volunteers fudge the guidelines because volunteers are missing or we all know each other. Let me remind you ::
- 90% of child sexual abuse victims KNOW their abuser.
- About 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by people the family trusts.
Know your policy and stick to it. Check with your insurance policy on what must be included, but I urge you to never allow a leader (youth or adult) to be alone with a child — and that includes the pastor. Yes, children should always be supervised, so make sure you have at least two or more leaders present.
81% of child sexual abuse incidents for all ages occur in one-perpetrator/one-child circumstances. “If a church works at crafting an environment and policies that don’t allow children to be isolated with adults, it becomes more difficult for an offender to abuse a child” (as quoted here). Protect your children and require two or more leaders to be present at all times with a child(ren).
Other Important Steps to Preventing Sexual Abuse
Consider also these important steps to preventing sexual abuse.
- Implement a check-in/check-out procedure.
- Screen your volunteers and check their references.
- Implement a waiting period where you can get to know new attenders before allowing them to serve with children.
- Equip parents to talk openly and honestly with their kids. (Read more here.)
- Train your entire staff and your volunteer teams.
Resources You Need
- On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church
- Protecting Children From Abuse in the Church (Minibook)
- Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders
Question for You ::
What does your church or organization do to prevent child abuse?