An Ounce of Prevention

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"The Smoking Gun" posted an article about a youth pastor who was found to have secretly videotaped 4 teen-aged girls as they showered. After engineering a game where the girls were doused in honey, he then suggested they shower in a church bathroom where he’d previously hidden a camera. The incident came to light more than three years after the fact when he revealed it to one of these girls after they began dating. Unfortunately, no charges could be brought because it was beyond the statute of limitations for this type of crime.

Not much was said about the church except to mention the name. I wonder how many people in that congregation thought they knew this youth pastor and trusted him. Did they ever suspect he’d be capable of something like this? Who was the youth leader accountable to? Did anyone else share responsibility to oversee what happened at youth group? The article also doesn’t mention whether or not there was any kind of a screening policy in place at this church. What screening policies could have helped in this situation when there may or may not have been any criminal record? And what safe church protocols could have prevented this youth pastor from engaging in this type of activity in the first place?

What we do know is that prevention is far easier than dealing with the far-reaching effects of this type of abuse, which includes intense feelings of betrayal, anger and shame. The phrase, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes to mind. What about the reactions of the parents of these youth? Imagine the dismay of church leadership who perhaps hired this person or who provided oversight for youth ministry at the time of this incident. How does a church move forward as a faith community once such an event has come to light?

Is there a story you can share about the success of your church’s safe church policy in preventing abuse? What successes or failures can you share from your experience about the need for screening policies and ministry protocols at your church for all employees and volunteers?

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