Who would have thought that church would be in the top list of places that pedophiles target? I know it was certainly not something I expected to hear. But, as a victim of someone within church authority, I can see how churches make themselves vulnerable to sexual predators.
When you go to church, you want to know that you can trust people there. It is church, after all. Church should be safe. It’s a place where we are taught of Christ’s love and grace. We hope for the same from each other and do our best to show that to each other. But, that can sometimes be where a church goes wrong in regards to their children. We so badly want to know that we can trust all those who are within in the church, but predators that have seeped within the church have proven that’s not possible. Parents are then left wondering if they can even leave their child(ren) within the nursery. Churches, however, can establish strict boundaries to avoid potential predator situations and parents can help make sure those boundaries are put into place, if not already.
When it comes to programs involving children, such as nursery, children’s church, and other programs, a church should:
Make sure all workers and volunteers go through a background check. Though so many predators fall through the cracks of the background check (because many of them are not caught after the first offense), this still filters out anyone who might have history. It is so important that volunteers are put through a background check as well. Even though they might not have consistent contact with the children, they are still working with the children at some point. They need to be held to the same safety standards as the regular workers.
Mandate extensive training for the workers and have the volunteers go through at least some training, if not the same extensive training. This type of training is focused on the protection of the children. The training includes knowing the symptoms/behaviors of a predator, how to intervene on a potential situation, what to do if a child is potentially harmed, and policies of the nursery and children’s ministries.
Have at least 3 workers/volunteers per room. If it is not possible for three to be present, then there should be no less than two unrelated workers/volunteers. The workers being unrelated is very important. Unfortunately, when the workers are related, even if one is appalled at the abuse the other is doing, he or she is more likely to stay silent about it. But, when you have all workers who are not related by blood or marriage, you establish a less risky situation and less potential for abuse or abuse not being reported.
Be sure that diaper changing is done by a regular worker, preferably female, only. Yes, I do recognize that women can also be abusers. But, the percentage of female to male predators is significantly less. It is also more ideal if the diaper changing is done while another worker is in the room and able to be aware. *Parents, a safe guard you can put into place is to avoid this all together. If your child needs to be changed, simply request that the workers come get you, “page” you or text you so that you can be the one to change your child’s diapers.
Regarding bathroom breaks of older children, a single adult should never be alone with a child. The nursery should also have routines in place where the children are all taken to the bathroom at the same time and multiple adults are helping. Otherwise, for those individual situations, an extra person should be present for accountability. This may seem tedious, but predators look for opportunities to be alone with a child.
Have clear visibility for parents to check up on their children. Parents should be able to freely check on their children any time throughout the church service. If there are no windows in the room, then the door should remain open with a baby gate to prevent wandering.
Above all, parents should feel security in knowing their children are safe. You might feel like your child is safe, but if your church does not have strict policies in place for protection against predators, don’t let yourself be naive in thinking that it couldn’t happen at your church. The man who abused me got away with abusing young girls for years before he was caught. The church did have policies but not exceptionally strict ones. Even if there are policies, stay alert. Randomly check on your children throughout the church service (and not at the same times).
When it comes to predators, it is okay to be an overly cautious parent.
Does your church have good policies in place? Do you feel they are effective? Are there some policies that your church has that I have not mentioned here?