A Moral & Legal Responsibility
Churches have an obligation to address the opportunities and potential for the abuse of children with a determined, intentional preparedness effort. Work to create an environment where it is virtually impossible for sexual abuse to occur on church property during church ministries and events.
Every Christian’s moral and legal responsibility is to report any suspicion of a child’s abuse to law enforcement authorities.
Pastors, ministers, church leaders and volunteer workers may not know enough about a situation or may be afraid of making a false accusation, but the obligation to report our suspicions still stands. Churches are not equipped to conduct the kind of investigations required in abuse cases, and, in any event, local police departments are the appropriate authority tasked and equipped for this purpose.
Any abuse—whether it be sexual, physical or something else—should be reported to local police without delay. After law enforcement authorities have been notified, the church must conduct its own pastoral care and church discipline work. This process starts with an incident report and merciful, caring ministry to the child, his parents and family.
Abuse Prevention Guidelines
- Background Checks – Require background checks for any paid staff or volunteers who work with children in any capacity. Conduct periodic audits of ministry volunteer lists to ensure that background check procedures are being followed.
- Coverage – Screen workers who work with preschoolers, children, middle school and high school students with due diligence. Make no screening exceptions for student workers.
- Automatic Exclusions – Anyone with a history of sexual crimes (whatever the offense category and whether the sex crime was specifically against children or not) should not be allowed to work with preschoolers, children or students.
- Abuse Prevention Policy
- Two Workers Rule – Always staff two or more workers per classroom or group. No worker should ever be alone with a child or a group of children. Make this rule a matter of policy for all ministries and organizations attached to the church.
- Active Supervision – Ministry staff, ushers or church security should make frequent visits to areas and hallways used for preschool, children and student ministry.
- Open Doors – During ministry events and activities, no classroom door in utilized areas should be locked. Auto-lock doors should be removed from areas used by minor children, unless required by law or for safety considerations.
- Windows – Classroom doors and preschool nursery areas should have windows.
- Bathrooms – For single-occupant (non-public, non-multi-occupant) preschool or child bathrooms, doors should be kept cracked whenever a child is taken to the bathroom by an adult worker.
- Limit Abuse Opportunities – Think through activities, camps and events with an eye for abuse opportunities and potential landmines. Do not allow or ask workers to be alone with a child or student.
- Environment – Create an environment where it is virtually impossible for sexual abuse to occur on church property during church ministries and events. Abuse prevention policy, guidelines, training, audits, awareness, security and video surveillance all play a role in creating this environment.
- Video Surveillance – Consider the use of video cameras in all areas used by preschoolers, children and students. Video surveillance can be passive, meaning that recordings are made and kept for a specific period of time, without active viewing of archived material except in cases of alleged abuse or an incident.
- Security Procedures – Institute security measures for entry into your preschool and children’s ministry areas. Preschool entrances should be protected and check-in and check-out procedures created to ensure that only authorized adults have access to their children.
- Incident Reporting
- The first priority is the protection of children, not the church’s reputation and not the protection of any person’s reputation.
- Police Report – Report any evidence or signs of child sexual abuse to your local police department. Make no exceptions to this rule. Police investigators are the ones best prepared to investigate abuse claims and evidence.
- Incident Report – Complete an incident report for the church’s records. Find generic accident report and incident report forms in our Operations Forms Archive.
Background Checks & Screening
Child Safety Kit for Churches – GuideOne Insurance offers a Child Safety Kit for Churches, available to anyone who completed a short web registration form. This free, downloadable guide helps educate church leaders and volunteers on best practices for keeping preschoolers and children safe.
Church Law & Tax – ChurchLawandTax.com provides information on solid policies and procedures that will properly screen your staff and keep your kids safe. Along with several helpful articles, you can download an abuse prevention policy for local church use.