Protecting Children in Church from Sexual Abuse

Every so often, we’re reminded of the importance of security and the screening of children’s ministry volunteers.

Just yesterday, this story came out about a 57 year-old man from Largo, Florida who got busted for possessing child pornography and having chats online with kids about sex and cannibalism: http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/25/justice/florida-puppeteer-porn/index.html

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Here’s another detail to his story that is also frightening: he volunteered at his local church in the children’s department. He was a puppeteer by trade and performed on a Christian puppet show for television (according to his Facebook page). He would invite kids to his house for pizza and then take them to church in the church van.

Many churches think “this will never happen to us!”

Sooner or later, without the proper defenses, it will. Predators often look for opportunities in churches because unfortunately, many churches do not have good defenses built up because they think it won’t happen to them.

Here are some ways we can reduce the risk and help protect our children from sexual abuse in the church:

1. Screen ALL volunteers. I don’t care if it’s the pastor’s wife or the woman who has served for 60 years. Run background checks, call personal references, and personally interview each person to see if they are fit and safe for work with kids.

2. Maintain a multiple person rule. NEVER allow an adult volunteer and a child to be alone together. This extends to their personal lives. Train volunteers that it is unacceptable to be alone with children in their own homes or driving around town. This is basic common sense that is often the policy of schools and children’s programs (such as the YMCA).

3. Train volunteers to report (not investigate) suspicions of any signs of abuse in a child’s life. Each church should have a policy in place about reporting abuse to the proper authorities.

Here are some more articles and resources provided by the Assemblies of God denomination about protecting our children: http://ag.org/top/legal_matters

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Jesse

Jesse Joyner travels nationwide performing a comedy juggling act for family and kids events. He is also working towards his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their daughter, Kezzie.

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