Churchnet Strategy Development Team Leader
Few things can be more disruptive and destructive to church life than a scandal involving the sexual abuse of a child at a church activity. It is a scandal, an embarrassment, and a shame in the community. But more than that, it is a life-altering trauma for the victim. Recovery from such an event can take years to achieve, and in some cases a complete recovery may never be possible.
If someone shows up at your church for a few weeks and offers to work with children or youth do you put them right to work? Or does your church have firm policies about reference and background checks for all those who have access to your kids? Do you have a minimum length of time for attendance before someone is trusted to lead?
The Churchnet Strategy Development Team has launched an emphasis on the prevention of sexual abuse, the education of churches about their responsibility to deal with it, and the care for victims. We want to provide relevant resources for Churchnet-related and other interested churches.
Some Protestants have listened somewhat smugly to the reports of sexual misconduct among clergy in the Catholic Church. However, it should be noted that this unfortunate phenomenon also happens in Baptist Churches. Most of us have heard stories about such awful things, and some of us have seen these things happen first-hand.
There are excellent guidelines and checklists available from insurance companies – especially Church Mutual and Brotherhood Mutual – to help leaders of children and youth groups do a better job of preventing the involvement of persons who have suspicious motives and histories. Google the name of your insurance company and see what resources are available on their website to deal with this issue. The insurance companies are anxious to prevent sexual misconduct in churches because these occurrences cost them millions of dollars in liability claims every year.
Unfortunately, these acts of sexual misconduct are sometimes committed by ministers. While most of our pastors and staff members subscribe to a high code of moral and ethical conduct, there are some who succumb to temptation and betray the trust placed in them. There are some who are even predatory and go from victim to victim and church to church, leaving wreckage in their wake.
We find this subject difficult to talk about, but that is part of what protects and enables offenders. The secrecy and downplaying of sexual misbehavior allows it to continue, and it leaves victims feeling abandoned and ashamed. We can do better.
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse at church and need help dealing with it, Churchnet has established a fund to assist you in getting the care and support you need. Call Jim Hill at 888-420-2426, ext. 705, to learn how to access that help.