Originally published the Jan/Feb 2012 edition of FrontLine. Part 1 of 2.
Every church or other ministry ought to adopt a policy to help prevent child sexual abuse. Below are some ideas that can help with this process.
Tailoring a Policy for Your Ministry
Although there are many model policies available, it is important that a church develop a policy that it can implement effectively. In order to accomplish this you should invite key ministry leaders and workers to help in the process of crafting the policy. Their involvement is important for several reasons.
- It helps achieve “buy in.” If the people of the church, and especially those who work with children, are not convinced of the need for and value of an effective policy, both the plan’s adoption and its implementation will be jeopardized. Remember that the plan is not simply “window dressing.” It will help to protect children from abuse only if it actually affects the way the church operates. If the key leaders are not enthusiastic, even a well-crafted plan will not be effective because it will not be fully carried out.
- It helps ensure that the plan is actually workable in the regular functioning of the ministry. For the plan to work the church leaders and volunteers need to be able to work the plan. The policy must take into account the church’s size, the composition of the congregation, the layout of the facilities, and the structure of the children’s and youth ministries. A plan that is not followed is actually worse than no plan because it creates a false sense of security. Including representatives from different ministry areas, especially those who work with children, in the formulation of the policy, will ensure that the program is workable.
- It provides a way to further develop and disciple church leaders and workers. Whenever God points out a ministry need, He is also providing an opportunity for His people to mature spiritually. Christ’s plan for His church is for it to grow by means of using the gifts of all the members. Many churches have individuals with specific training in this area, such as teachers, social workers, and police officers, to name a few. In addition, individuals who have organizational and other abilities could be involved as well. The working group should also have pastoral staff representation in order to maintain healthy spiritual direction and proper coordination with the ministry leadership.
Basic Elements of a Child Protection Policy
There is no universal standard for child abuse prevention policies. However, there are major elements that are regularly recommended by those who work in this area.
- Statement of purpose:Here the church states its commitment to the protection of children and the prevention of child sexual abuse. Often this statement will refer to specific Biblical principles.
- Definitions:Most sources recommend that the policy reproduce the definitions, including the definitions of different types of abuse, from state law where the ministry is located.
- Coverage: This section indicates who is subject to the policies. These usually include all paid staff as well as all volunteers who work with minors. In some cases this group may also include vendors and contractors, if their responsibilities bring them in close and regular contact with children.
- Worker selection:This section addresses, among other things, qualifications for working with children, application and interview procedures, references, and background checks.
- Training:Before working with children, staff and volunteers should be required to go through a specified initial training. In addition there is normally some form of periodic training and review requirements (such as yearly workers’ in-service sessions and regular meetings).
- Boundary policies: These are common-sense rules which all workers must agree to follow that set limits on their contact with children. They cover such matters as not being alone in private with a child, not having sleepovers at one’s home, rules for social networking with children, and what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable physical contact.
Part 1 of “Developing an Effective Child Protection Policy” – Part 2.
The preceding article is excerpted from the Jan/Feb issue of FrontLine. Due to the importance of the issue of child protection, we are publishing these articles in their entirety, albeit in a serialized format. The articles on Protecting Our Children will be made available in pdf format as soon as our serialization is complete.
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