Be sure to check out our series on protecting your church from sexual abuse:
- Part 1: 4 Reasons every ministry leader must take sexual abuse seriously (Current article)
- Part 2: How to protect your church from sexual abuse
We are confronted almost every day with a new report about sexual abuse, rape, or violence. Sometimes the abuse occurred years ago, other times it is a recent attack. Some reading this post have already faced the dark days when an instance of abuse occurred in your church or ministry.
Each report is a heartbreaking reminder of the fallen state of our world. Our hearts grieve for those who have been abused and hurt. We long for a new day when abuse will be no more. We wait with expectation for the day when there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (see Rev. 21:4).
However, if you are reading this post, that day has not yet come. We are living in an age where no ministry or church is immune from the threat of sexual abuse. Every ministry leader must act to protect the people in their ministries from sexual abuse. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Background checks alone will not cover your church
This is one of the most common misconceptions when it comes to sexual abuse and ministries. Many leaders wrongly think that if their ministry or church is conducting background checks on volunteers, they are covered from liability and litigation should sexual abuse occur. Let me say this in the strongest language possible: NO WAY! Background checks alone do not cover churches or ministries from liability. Every church, including small churches, have to do more than background checks on their volunteers and staff.
Should you do background checks on volunteers? Yes.
Do background checks alone provide enough protection? No.
2. Sexual sin and abuse are going to increase unless there is
a radical change
I don’t want to sound like a pessimist (I’m usually a pretty optimistic person). However, our culture fuels this monster via an obsession with sex. Porn is viewed by many as a mainstream and acceptable activity. People (including young children) now have unprecedented access to pornography through technology (smartphones, tablets, etc). Advertisers feed this beast by using sex and innuendo to market and sell their products. We are living in a culture saturated with sexual images and ideas. While not everyone who is exposed to pornography becomes an abuser, some do. Lives, as a result, are shattered.
3. Some sexual predators are drawn to the activities and ministries of churches
It is a scary thing to think about someone being drawn to your ministry with the desire to harm a child. However, the threat of sexual abuse is real for every ministry, large or small. Predators look for environments that give them access to the vulnerable. A predator may find access by teaching a children’s class, working in the nursery, or hosting an event for teens.
Our responsibility as ministry leaders is to do everything we can to stop abuse before it occurs. There are lots of things we can do. I believe the most critical place to start is with sexual abuse awareness training for all church staff, workers, and volunteers.
4. Sexual abuse awareness training is easy to obtain and provide to others
Sexual abuse training is a preventative tool that teaches leaders and volunteers about the threat of abuse, what to look for, and how to stop abuse from occurring. This type of training serves as the foundation of a more comprehensive plan for your ministry. It is the best place to start in addressing this threat.
Sexual abuse training should do the following:
- Help educate leaders and volunteers of the danger.
- Inform needed policies and best practices to keep children, teens, and adults safe.
- Help your ministry evaluate facilities and childcare space in light of the threat. Our church uses a company called Ministry Safe. I do not receive any compensation from Ministry Safe for this recommendation. I just believe in their product and it has worked well for our ministry. Plus, Ministry Safe is extremely affordable and easy to use (even for a small ministry)! In the next post, I’ll detail the specifics of why we chose Ministry Safe along with a few specific advantages of this resource.
The focus of this post has been to provide a simple reminder that regardless of how large or small your ministry is, the threat of sexual abuse is real.
We are responsible for doing whatever we can to protect those we serve.
Lastly, let me encourage pastors and ministry leaders who serve in smaller ministries: you cannot afford to ignore this threat. Educating yourself on how to respond to this danger is critical. Discovering an incident of abuse in the ministry you serve could be some of the most heartbreaking,
Training and preparation to address this threat have never been easier to locate and implement. Take a look at Part 2 in this series to learn an easy way you can help prevent sexual abuse in your church.