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Ministry Toolkit

Essentials To Prevention & Protection 

Train Screen Protect Report Care


The desire and goal of this toolbox is to make every church the safest place on planet Earth for every child, student, and adult who comes to a church.  These tools are not designed to force anything upon your church, but instead, to give your church the tools and resources needed to make your church a safe place.  To make our churches safe from abuse, we must be proactive. Developing policies and procedures ahead of time, training and educating staff and volunteers, as well as partnering with abuse experts will set your church up well to be a safe place for your community. It is up to the pastors and leaders of a church to lead this charge. Here are Five Essential Action Steps to begin to protect your church from predators who seek to prey on the vulnerable among you and to care well for victims and survivors of abuse:


THE FIVE ESSENTIALS

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14)

  1. TRAIN  

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.”  Proverbs 3:13-14

“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2:11

  1. SCREEN

“Therefore, each of you must put away falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25

  1. PROTECT

“Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet.”  Psalm 140:4

  1. REPORT

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor & helpless, & see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8-9

  1. CARE 

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9

NOTE: The information contained here is general in nature and is not intended to be legal advice. The Southern Baptist Convention encourages each church to consult with legal counsel when implementing local policies and practices.


TRAIN  

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.”  Proverbs 3:13-14

“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2:11

It is imperative that church leaders are aware and understand the problem and scourge of sexual abuse that exists in our country/world and even, unfortunately, inside the church. Statistics tell us 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys (though many believe this is much higher) are sexually abused before they turn 18.  Only 16% of these victims ever reveal their abuse.  Church leaders must help our churches understand that the mission, to prevent sex abuse and our response to it, is a clear and compelling gospel issue.  It is not one we can ignore nor can we bury our heads in the sand and hope it will just go away.  We must face it head-on and not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear because it may be difficult or hard.  

Every church and church leaders must train their members how to prevent, identify and respond to sexual abuse to make help make their churches the safest places on earth.  Sexual abuse awareness training is a foundational component of onboarding new staff and volunteers who will have access to children, youth, and vulnerable adults.  This reinforces a culture of zero tolerance.  Church leaders must help dispel the idea that abuse can’t happen in our church or minimize it as a mistake or think that doing a criminal background check is enough.  Each church needs to be committed to an ongoing process of training and continually raising awareness of this issue. 

Darkness to Light, ECAP, G.R.A.C.E, Lifeway OneSource, MinistrySafe, Plan to Protect, Protect My Ministry, Safe Ministry Solutions, Safeguard from Abuse, Zero Abuse Project

Chart footnotes

1-  Provides sample, editable documents such as applications, reference forms, interview forms, and policies and procedures.

2  – Membership based

3 -Background checks and awareness training not included in annual fee.

4 – All digital forms

5 – Ministry Mobilizer does not include background checks and awareness training.

SCREEN

“Therefore, each of you must put away falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25

It is critical that churches implement a thorough screening process for anyone that will have access to children, youth & vulnerable adults. A thorough process ensures that individuals are suitable and compatible with your church’s policies and procedures. Every potential staff and volunteer should go through the same screening process. It does not matter how well “everyone knows everyone.” Statistics tell us over 90 percent of children who are abused know their perpetrator – someone who they know and trust. 

Relying only on background checks does not protect those in your ministry. While background checks must be done, churches need to gather more reliable information from several sources on applicants to determine their fitness for service. 

An in-depth screening process can drastically reduce the risk of abuse and increase safety for those in your church’s care. The six best practices for screening anyone wanting to serve with children, youth, and vulnerable adults are implementing a six-month waiting period, a written application, requesting and checking references, an interview, a background check, and a social media review. Below are some helpful resources that can assist you in developing your church’s screening process.

PROTECT

“Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet.”  Psalm 140:4

Jesus calls us to minister to those who are oppressed (Isa. 58:6-7). Silence does not protect the church or Christ’s name. One of the ways you can protect children, youth & vulnerable adults is by having solid policies and procedures in place at your church.  This protects those you are serving; children, youth, and vulnerable adults, while also protecting those that serve them; volunteers, staff, and the church at large. 

Once developed, being intentional about following them is imperative for the protection of everyone involved. If your church does have policies and procedures in place, now is a good time to review them, and make sure they are current, and that they are being followed by staff and volunteers. Policies and procedures can only protect everyone if followed and adhered to. They should be comprehensive and written from a knowledge of how predators push boundaries and what their grooming patterns look like so that violations can be immediately reported and addressed. They need to be accessible, tailored to your church, and agreed to and trained on by the staff and volunteers.  Finally, they need to be reviewed annually.

You should have them reviewed by your legal counsel and insurance companies for further input and guidance. Policies and procedures are the bookends to a solid prevention plan.  Proper screening and training coupled with solid policies and procedures that your staff and volunteers adhere to and abide by create a strong hedge of protection around those your church serves and those who serve them.

REPORT

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor & helpless, & see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8-9

Every state has laws identifying those required to report child abuse. Even if you believe you are not legally required to report child abuse in your state, you are still encouraged to report suspected or known abuse. In all states and territories, any person is permitted to report child abuse and abuse of vulnerable adults. As followers of Jesus, we are charged with protecting the vulnerable, and reporting known or suspected abuse is part of that mandate.  If you know or suspect a child or vulnerable adult has been abused, you should report this to civil authorities. 

A church should have a proper response plan for when abuse occurs, including informing the insurance company that insures the church, removing the alleged abuser from all ministerial duties until the report is resolved, informing the church as appropriate, ministering to the victim and the alleged abuser, and by not attempting to investigate the allegations of abuse internally.

Reporting Laws for each State:  

Reporting Abuse to Vulnerable Adults:

CARE 

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9

Church leaders are often called to the difficult and sensitive task of shepherding victims through the devastation of abuse. Abuse shatters our God-given image, disrupting our voice, sense of identity and sense of trust and safety in relationships.  The trauma of abuse can be a barrier to trusting God, reading and receiving Scripture, and connecting to a church community.  Our response in supporting survivors of sexual abuse has the opportunity to accurately reflect the mission and character of Jesus Christ, or grossly misrepresent Him, thus damaging and failing both survivors as well as abusers, and being a detraction to the gospel.    To walk alongside survivors is a long, slow, necessary and valuable commitment.  It takes collaboration with a variety of community resources such as trauma-informed counselors, legal support and victim advocates.  Church leaders can become informed about the impact of abuse and how to find the necessary supportive resources to come alongside survivors.

Resources for caring for survivors:

Lifeway OneSource, MinistrySafe, Protect My Ministry