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A reminder that good things don't come to an end even as my tenure as a guide and as director of Safe Church Ministry comes to a close.  It is important to say “Farewell.”  It is also important to say “Well done.”   I’d like to take this moment to express my profound gratitude to all those who supported me and encouraged 

March 28, 2011 0 4 comments
Q&A

I am often involved with churches that do not have a Safe Church policy in place.  In some cases I have been working with a team to help produce this.  I am wondering what pastors or leaders do if they are called to a church and plan to help create a policy.  Are there individual insurance plans...

March 22, 2011 0 1 comments
Q&A

Hi

I need to give a Safe Church Seminar at my church and previously they have shown the Faith trust Institute videos of Bless our Children and Hear their Cries. The problem is that most people have now seen them and I would like to bring something new. Is there any other videos that could...

March 15, 2011 0 3 comments
Discussion Topic

 Thanks Beth,

    Beth, we have safer churches because you answered God's call to stop abuse and oppression that happens to often. I don't know the details of your departure nor due I care. This is about you. The Lord is faithful as you know, but in these times  like now he is there to...

March 10, 2011 0 1 comments
Blog

When we see someone who functions in a powerful role, it may surprise us that the same person once felt very vulnerable.  Sen. Brown from Massachusettes discloses in his new book that he was physically assaulted by step-fathers and sexually abused by a camp counselor.

February 21, 2011 0 1 comments
Blog

A recent article by NASW News highlighted the recent suicides of teens and young men who had taken their life after being tormented by their peers.  You probably remember reading one or more of these incidents in your local newspaper or seeing a report on the news.

February 14, 2011 0 2 comments
Blog

Life is full of choices.  Sometimes we have the pleasure of choosing between two delicious looking desserts and casting aside any concern for the caloric content.  And sometimes....well you know where I'm going.  You're looking at two options and neither one leaves you feeling excited.  We have those experiences in the life of the church...

February 9, 2011 0 3 comments
Blog

Two times recently a church leader has asked me, "How soon will the offender be ready to go back into ministry?"   From where I sit, I don't know.  I don't know if anyone knows the answer to that question.  Waiting to be "healed" from bad behavior must seem like a long time for the person, for the family, and certainly for the person who was harmed...

January 31, 2011 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

Facility Changes for the Protection of Youth

 Bathrooms:

Bathrooms with 2-3 stalls are preferable over single-stall bathrooms because of the option of leaving the door slightly ajar and still maintaining privacy.Classrooms or activity rooms for the youngest...
December 29, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Although it does vary, in most states and provinces, the age of consent is 16. Below age 16, a minor is regarded as unable to give consent; 16 or older and the minor is regarded as able to give consent. That does not mean, however, that everyone who is of age to give consent to sexual acts has given consent ... 

December 10, 2010 0 9 comments
Blog

Consent is not just permission; consent also implies that we understand the consequences of our actions.  Learn more about consent in this blog and in future blogs.

December 7, 2010 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic

Our council is dealing with a family who has left the church because of some rude comments that were said to them. Since I have moved to this congregation about 15 years ago I have sensed that there is something missing here .I need help putting my finger on what the problem so I can do...

December 5, 2010 0 4 comments
Blog

Network guide Neil de Koning has written a thoughtful article on how the hidden hurts and dysfunctions of individual members can affect the dynamics of an entire church. He states that when the often invisible “elephant” takes a seat in the church we can be tempted to just move over and ...

November 17, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

A community agency recently disclosed the results of a survey on child abuse and neglect.  The results revealed that reports of child abuse and neglect rose 33% in that community between 2000 and 2008.  So the old, familiar question: Is child abuse and neglect increasing or is there more reporting of ...

October 18, 2010 0 1 comments
Q&A

I'm looking for a sample agenda for what to include when discussing our church's Abuse Prevention Policy with ministry leaders.

I know I can review the policy itself and the processes required, why we have a policy, and what the policy says if there is a report of abuse. Any other...

October 11, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Check out this recent article in Christianity Today about churches dealing with sex offenders attending church.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/september/21.49.html

And if you face this situation, be sure to contact Beth Swagman at the Safe Church Ministry; she has great...

September 21, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Our outreach ministry on Wednesday nights often includes kids who are angry and troubled. Occasionally, when conflict arises, their answer is to walk away - right off the property! These are kids from elementary to middle school age, and often when the youth is in conflict, his or her younger...

September 21, 2010 0 2 comments
Blog

Did you read the recent story about the man who killed his wife, stepdaughter, and three neighbors because his wife didn't cook his eggs properly that morning?  Does that just drive you to wonder, "what are we missing here?"  Where have we gone wrong in society and in the church ... 

September 15, 2010 0 1 comments
Blog

One question that seems to be on the minds of many church members is, "Why don't  victims of abuse report the abuse at the time that it occurs, but rather wait until they are adults when investigation and prosecution are so much more difficult?"

August 12, 2010 0 2 comments
Blog

Late this spring, I asked some guest bloggers to respond to a few of the typical questions I receive when meeting with church audiences.  I am going to ask guest blogger, Judy Cook, retired therapist at Shalem Chr. Counseling Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, to respond to a few more questions. 

August 4, 2010 0 4 comments
Blog

Suppose you knew a teen who was caught fondling two toddlers at your church. The teen is reported to the police, and he admits doing a “stupid thing”. His parents hire an attorney and the teen appears before a judge in family court who orders the teen to four weekends in juvenile detention and mandated youth-offender counseling. The judge reminds the teen that if he stays out of trouble, his juvenile record will be sealed and no one will know about his youthful offense.

July 12, 2010 0 2 comments
Blog

You can wait for the Acts of Synod to be published, or you can take a peek at some of the decisions of Synod 2010 that impact the Safe Church Ministry.

July 8, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

enditnow today!

Looking back, Pastor “Jones” should have known. All the warning signs were there. “Stella” often seemed anxious and nervous when “Mike,” her husband, was around. She was always very subservient, so intent on doing whatever he said. Even then, Mike would talk down to her in...

July 8, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

His eye is on the sparrow, but he was tapping my shoulder all morning.

June 16, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

We work over breaks and take a break over meetings.  During meal times and break times, we have several conversations .... each one conducted fast and with few words, but ...

June 15, 2010 0 1 comments

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Hi Rebecca,

Here are some suggestions for an agenda with the ministry leaders.

First, I would talk about the reality (not the possibility) of abuse of children in the church setting.  Do you have an article from the newspaper where such a story was reported on?  There are many of them...  Some denominations have stories or statistics you can use.

Second, I would talk about how abuse occurs in the church.  Talk about the grooming steps.

Next, I would talk about who abusers are in the context of the church.  There are wanderers, predators, and pedophiles. 

Fourth, I would discuss the signs and symptoms that children are being or have been abuse. 

Then, I would talk about reporting and make sure all the ministry leaders know what the reporting requirements are in your community.

Other topics you could raise include: how will we discipline the children in our care; why is screening important; looking at abuse in segments like neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. 

The video "Bless our Children" and "Hear their Cries" from the Faith Trust Institute are good resources and can lead to wonderful discussions.

I hope this is helpful or contact me and I'd be happy to plan something more specific for your church.

Beth

Hello

You are a brave person and I am grateful for people like you who find the courage to challenge the evil.  I'm grateful, too, that the superintendent believed your story.  That first step is crucial and many church leaders fail at that point.  Still, the wait and hope for closure is painful and could be a long time yet. 

The other member of the church have not had the experience you had with the pastor, so it does not come on their radar.  Denial is much easier for people who have had no experience with a predator.  Some people are vengeful and out to hurt you; the majority are simply unwilling to acknowledge the presence of evil in their world.  When that happened and you could not receive the support you needed, you chose to leave.  That decision was difficult because it meant you would experience the loss of many relationships, but it also meant you were willing to protect your spiritual and emotional well-being.  Good for you!

If you continue to have a relationship with the superintendent, you might want to recommend to him the book Restoring the Soul of a Church, edited by Nancy Hopkins and Mark Laaser.  The book provides wonderful insights into the impact of church leader misconduct on the congregation and the long but necessary steps toward health and healing.

I wish you all the best as you continue your journey for healing.  Thank you for writing and sharing your story.  It is an inspiration to those who face a similar situation.  Your words speak to the difficulty, but also the freedom. 

Beth

Hello Rebecca,

I have a list of suggested questions to ask adults and minors who might be volunteers.  I'm going to put several of the questions in this comment so others can see them.  If you'd like the full list, please email me at bswagman@crcna.org

For adults:

1)  Discuss your interest in working with youth or children

2) Discuss the personal boundaries you set when working with children or youth

3) Describe a situation when you became frustrated or angry with a child or youth and how did you handle it

4) Describe your social support network and who is in your support network

5) Describe the risks of meeting one-to-one with a child or youth

6) Children and youth need affection and attention - describe how you would meet those needs

7) Discuss what part of the child safety policy you dislike the most and why

For minors:

1) Give some examples of how you have disciplined a child in your care

2) Why might it be important to work with an adult in ministry to youth

3) To whom would you report a possible situation of abuse

4) What do you think is the hardest part of working with children younger than yourself

5) Have you cared for younger siblings or other children

6) Why might the child safety policy restrict one-to-one meetings between volunteers and youth

 

It is important that you get adults or minors to talk about their experiences with youth and children; the boundaries and limitations they would put on themselves while working with children or youth; and whether or not they see accountability and supervision as important in a children's ministry.

I'm glad you asked the question about "questions".  I invite other readers to share their thoughts and their "interview questions"

I wish I had some helpful advice here, but I don't. Instead I show up with another question!

I'm looking for information on how to do a volunteer screening. Our church has a policy that includes a volunteer form, but specifies that volunteers should also be interviewed. What should that interview include?

I've been searching through the network and crcna.org sites for Safe Church recently. I'm finding a lot of helpful resources for someone who wants to get a safe church team started for classis, and a lot of resources that seem like they would be helpful at a local church who already has a safe team or who wants to raise awareness (bulletin inserts, handouts, prayers, etc.)

What there may be a need for here is something in the middle, resources for starting a safe church team at a local church, and guides for how to do some things. I'm a recent vistor to this area of the site because although our church has a policy, the committee that was tasked with administrating some of the details has lapsed. I'm asking the question, "my church has a policy, now what do I do?"

I have a couple of specific questions I'll be posting in the forum as separate questions (feel free to move or rearrange as needed) and of course, if I've overlooked something that can help me out, I welcome a suggestion for where to find those resources.

I am a victim of pastoral abuse for the past three years. I went to my pastor for counseling and ended up in this situation. I just reported him to the superintendent of this district of churches in central Indiana. Fortunately I found help from Tamar's Voice and Hope for Survivors, but it's still not easy. The superintendent believed me and immediatey went to that pastor and his wife and took away his credentials and license. The congregation sides with him and those who know who I am have turned their backs on me afflicting more pain. The congregation wants him back even in light that he lied to them and told them he was on sabbactical leave and they are paying him until the end of the year his full salary in hopes he will be back. The superintendent advised me he won't be if he can help it, but he can be reinstated. What he done to me was very evil and destructive and I am sure he has more victims. He also has a past of infidelity. It's hard to believe they would want him back and turn me away. I have found a new church and new denomination where I feel safe and am receiving counseling. I want so much for the word to get out about what is going on with these pastors who are predators and perpetrators and someday hope to make my voice known. In the meantime I have a lot of healing to go through. I have not thought of litigation, but am asking my counceling bills be paid for. If the reinsate him, I may seek legal council.

I really like the idea of focusing on the positive! I'm convinced that abuse would be much less in the context of healthy relationships. What makes a relationship good? Mutual respect, value, dignity, etc. Open, honest communication also comes to mind; safe places for people to be real with one another and share real struggles in life. Since the fall in the garden of Eden, we've been hiding from the Lord and from each other. Anything that promotes openness and honesty in our relationships is a good step toward prevention.  

Beth,

I am taking your blog post along to the Classis meeting today, if that's OK.  It's very well-written and will be another weapon in my "arsenal."  Thanks!

Judy, I hope you don't mind, but I copied and printed this post to use in my presentation to Classis Yellowstone next week.  We have a training coming up, and I want to help the members of the classis to understand just what we do.  This will be very helpful for me to use-thanks ahead of time!

Thank you for the good reminder.  God is indeed at the helm and thankfully coping with shock/pain/betrayal  does not only depend on our abilities and strength.

posted in: Just Like That...

Very young children (under 6) do not yet have the language to explain why they feel bad or confused about what is happening to them when an adult hurts them, particularly when the abuse is sexual.  They also function much more in the "here and now" and find it very difficult to remember and explain past events, particularly unpleasant ones.  

Although children between 6 and 12 or 14 are more able to explain what they experience, they also experience themselves as "the centre of their own universe."  What that means is that they believe everything bad that happens to them must be their fault, and that they deserve to be and will be punished for what is happening to them if they tell.  Most children instinctively know that parts of their bodies are "private" and it is very confusing to them to have an adult (any adult, but of course especially a trusted adult) appear friendly while at the same time they know something is wrong, which makes them feel bad and guilty.  Many adults who abuse sexually, capitalize on a child's naivete by suggesting what is happening is "our secret."  Also, children are naturally prone to obey adults who give them a specific command not to tell.  Abusers often reinforce a child's natural self-blame by suggesting if they tell, their parents will be angry and it will be their fault. 

Children's clearest language is their behavior.  Parents who notice a marked change in behavior (e.g., from being a happy child to being a child who acts out or becomes very withdrawn) can sometimes get to the bottom of why their school-age child is not him/herself.

Let's face it -- children are no match for adults.  But when they become adults themselves, the playing field has been leveled and they are now in a position to report the abuse --  towards healing, to stop someone from continuing to abuse others, and so justice may prevail. 

Once an abuser has fully acknowledged having committed a crime which resulted in serious harm done, has taken steps to understand his or her behavior, has made a commitment to change, what is received are enormous benefits -- a restored and truthful relationship with God and neighbour.  It is true that initially a person whose crimes have come to light experiences shame, loss of status, etc., which often results in feelings of self-loathing and depression.  But that is a necessary stage towards a renewed sense of oneself as a whole being who does not have to hide parts of himself or lie to herself.  I love Ps. 32, which speaks of the relief one feels when the acknowledgement and confession of sin is finally made, and forgiveness from God is accepted (by also forgiving oneself).

Forgiveness may have some "positive" impact on the abuser as well. It is important to acknowledge that one cannot paint all abusers with one brush, so the following ideas may not fit every situation or every abuser.

Some abusers feel enormous shame for the wrong they have committed. It is a hideous thing to perpetrate a crime against a child, a child who is a relative, a child entrusted to your care, etc. Forgiveness is a process that can help release some of the shame that is deeply hidden and scars the soul of the abuser.

Forgiveness can also be a source of acknowledgment that the genuine confession and repentance have been heard and forgiveness offered.

And just as the forgiveness of our sins by Jesus Christ may continue to amaze any one of us, so too the forgiveness of one's sin of abuse committed against another can result in the abuser feeling amazed, grateful, humbled....

Please provide some positive actions resulting from "Forgiveness" as that pertains to the abuser.
Judy Cook gave positive results for the abused, but, to me very little difference in Forgiveness or non-forgiveness as it pertains to the Abuser.

Perhaps this is appropriate for these types of situations!

You are right -- it is in fact appropriate to forgive someone's offense. Jesus asked his father to forgive his abusers even while he was experiencing being tortured on the cross by them. When I forgive someone, even if that person has horribly wronged me, then I receive freedome and healing for my suffering at the hands of that person. My forgiving someone is not even dependent on the wrongdoer's confession (Jesus' torturers were not asking to be forgiven). My forgiveness is a giving up of my right to hold onto my legitimate anger, and a giving up of my right to judge the person who has wronged me, in the name of Jesus, who also forgave me all of my sins.

But when I forgive an offender it does not mean he is scot-free. Forgiveness does not release the offender from responsibility for his actions. Actions have consequences, and a person might have to accept just punishment and/or loss of position because of abusive actions. Abusive behavior also demands restitution for the harm caused, changed behavior that is not abusive, and a willingness to do what is needed to effect reconciliation.

When a church community forgives an abuser, but at the same time is diligent in holding him or her accountable for his actions, grace abounds.

Thank you Angela for a thoughtful and well-balanced approach to this complicated issue. The protection of the weak and vulnerable is certainly Biblical.

I Like the idea of the adult having to petition to keep their juvenile record sealed. Hopefully it would not be an expensive process as most young adults are short on cash. I'm sure many juvenile offenders turn out to be productive and "harmless" members of society, but not all of them turn out so well. If the employers hiring them can at least be alerted that there is a sealed record it gives them some small recourse and alerts them that they should get to know this individual well before they decide.
Hopefully we are capable of allowing truly reformed people a second chance under close supervision, but as leaders in Christian ministry with children in our care, our first responsibility is to protect and nurture those children. It is a difficult situation when you need to balance the two duties of protecting our kids and allowing someone a chance at having a life after repenting from a crime. For me the swaying factor is that the children are yet "innocent" and are vulnerable without our protection while the repentant person did in fact commit a crime and while thier situation may be difficult it is not impossible. I suppose it sounds a bit cold, but sadly the consequences of our sin often haunt us for a very long time even after we've repented and its no different for juvenile offenders then it is for adults.

Okay fellow bloggers....let's step up to the plate and offer some advice to Veronica. Many of you have been in her shoes. What finally broke the log jam in your church?

I can suggest you contact the church's insurance agent. Sometimes they can be helpful in applying some pressure. Also, you can inform your council that they might bear liability if a claim is made and the claimant can show that the council was urged over several years to write a policy, but refused to do so. Such a refusal could be used to show the council failed to take reasonable steps to prevent an incident from occurring. And don't forget the "fire drill".

What is that? Just because your house has never burned to ground doesn't mean you don't help your children understand the dangers of a fire and practice how to get out of the house if a fire happens. We have to wait for danger to knock on the door before we do something to prevent it? Nonsense! Parents don't wait for a child to run into the street after the ball before reminding them to look both ways and watch for cars. Let's get proactive and prevent the problem from occurring. Are there council members out there who want to wait and see what happens to a child who becomes abused?

Hello Veronica,

You raise an important issue. A child safety policy and volunteer training should incorporate ways to protect children and volunteers. Everytime the policy warns against being alone in a car or classroom with a youth, the policy is doing exactly that. Still, a portion of each training could be spent helping volunteers and staff understand the importance of protecting themselves and each other from allegations. My experience is that some volunteers and staff resist the notion of self-protection if they interpret it to mean that there are limits on "doing ministry" and "building relationships" with youth. Taking unnecessary risks for the sake of ministry can often be problematic for the youth and the worker. The rules are there for a purpose and the purpose is not to prevent ministry but to facilitate healthy ministry. It isn't easy though, so gathering even once per year to learn the how and why of self-protection is a worthwhile activity. I hope directors of youth ministries are considering this topic as they plan and prepare for the new church season.

Are you kidding? I'd just love it if our congregation even attempted to do this. As volunteer leaders in youth ministries, we are so vulnerable to so many things. Our congregation has been working on an abuse policy for almost six years and has gotten nowhere. We have begged, pleaded, and threatened to quit as leaders, but nothing seems to move them. The Council just doesn't see this as a problem because it's never been a problem in the past.

The high school youth group does background checks on those attending work trips because the sponsoring organization requires it. We have never had a problem with someone not wanting a check, but if that were the case, he/she would simply not be able to go along, and I'd look a little more carefully at whether he/she should be in youth ministry in the first place.

I would like to see more information given to workers (especially volunteer workers) on how to protect themselves from bogus allegations. Especially in churches where there is a high rate of unchurched kids attending programs, congregations can be seen as potential sources of income to some families. We had a case in our area of a GEMS worker who was accused of sexually abusing an unchurched girl. It went all the way to court before the girl broke down and confessed that her father made her manufacture this charge because "we don't have enough money." This charge ruined the woman's life; she subsequently left the church and has had problems with depression.

Of course, our highest priority should be on making the kids safe. But if we simply throw our volunteers into the arena without any training on how to protect themselves, we are making a grave mistake...one that could harm them forever.

I like that idea! What a potential for hearing and being heard, for listening and talking, for education and prayer.

Beth told me this morning that the presentation is Wednesday evening.

posted in: Synod - Day One

Thank you! The reunions are a comfort, but so is the knowledge that people throughout the denomination are praying for this ministry and for the delegates of synod who will seriously consider the Victim's Task Force Report.

posted in: Synod - Day One

When do you present? I'll be praying for you and for the Task Force. Praying that God will give all understanding and compassionate hearts for those whose lives have been shattered in ways that are hard to comprehend. Glad for the friendly reunions and the signs that God is actively with you.

posted in: Synod - Day One

Hello Angela. If I had a nickel for every time that issue was raised.... Child safety policies are a two-sided coin or nickel. On one side, we need to protect children because they are too young, small, vulnerable, or naive to be able to protect themselves from an older teenager or adult who thinks and talks above the level of the child's comprehension. On the other side, we need to protect teens and adults who volunteer in our church's programs. Our volunteers could quite innocently put themselves in a place where someone could accuse them of wrongdoing. The accuser isn't always a child; sometimes another adult raises suspicions of a volunteer's conduct and the volunteer has only his or her word that something didn't happen. Why take that unnecessary risk? If volunteers would be willing to be screened, accept some training, and follow some basic, common-sense rules, and that would add a measure of safety to their relationships with youth, I would hope people would be less inclined to protest.

Child safety policies are really about reducing the risk of abuse occuring or an allegation being made. Because almost every volunteer qualifies to be a volunteer, the policy has very little to do with trust and almost everything to do with setting a standard for reducing the risk.

You can't purchase a home with insurance and can't purchase a car or register a vehicle in most communities without a protection policy. We need to think about prevention more than just the perception that policies are a hassle.Churches without a policy that have gone through the tragedy of a child abuse complaint would likely wish that they had a policy that would have protected them or guided them through the process from complaint to resolution.

I know other people have faced Angela's situation - shout out some support and advice to her.

Thank you for the comment, August. You have a wise and reasonable system in place for sending emails that are of a general interest to the congregation.

The question that therapist Judy Cook responded to came out of the context in which the emails and texting were personal and sexual in nature between a youth leader and a youth group member. I am supportive of Judy's response to this particular question. If the purpose of the emails or texts, spoken or not, is to attempt to engage a minor in a relationship that is not appropriate because of age or circumstances, the parents and other church officials may need to intervene. Sometimes a gentle reminder of appropriate boundaries can help resolve the matter. When the emails and texts become persistent, are unwelcome, and demonstrate a desire to bypass parental supervision or church leader supervision, a more serious problem looms. As Judy indicates in her response, ignoring the problem is not helpful. In fact, ignoring the problem may communicate that the matter doesn't deserve attention - and that can lead to continuing misconduct.

I believe this goes a bit too far..
I have the church's mailing list and if someone would like to send something to the congregation I do it. If a member would like to be off this mailing list, I simply delete the e-mail address.

I do not include youth e-mails yet until they ask me to include them, or when they make profession of faith.

August Guillaume

Our church is currently without a Safe Church team. As the head of the Nursery Ministry this leaves me and my co-chair stuck trying to write and implement safety policies for our nursery. The church membership is resistant to most all safety practices as they don't see them necessary in our small town. We found out very quickly that the terms "Abuse Prevention" and "Safe Church" make some people quite angry. They feel like if we need these safety procedures that we must not trust them and they get insulted. What can we do to change these perceptions?

It all depends on who decided the emails and texts are "unwanted." And it also depends on the content of the emails and texts, when and how often they are posted, and what they are designed to do, from the point of view of the youth leader and his/her supervisor. If the party deciding the messages are "unwanted" is the youth, we're talking about harassment by the youth leader, and civil authorities should be called immediately, for the protection of a minor. If it is the parents who don't want their son/daughter communicating personally with a youth leader the "why" of that becomes very important. Is the son/daughter in trouble in some way which includes conflict with parents? If that is the case, wise counsel from a trusted youth leader can help to either protect or/and facilitate resolutions for the teen, even though the parents may disagree with the approach and consider the youth leader to be interfering.

However, if the youth and youth leader are alligned in a pseudo-equal relationship, where both agree that they have "something special" which is private and personal, then we are talking about seduction (emotional and/or sexual). The youth leader in this case has stepped over a boundary which a good abuse policy can (and must) define. Some of the most common signs that signal concerns by parents, other youth leaders, or friends of the youth include: 1) Lack of transparancy with other youth leaders/supervisor about the reason for personal contact outside of meetings or youth events. 2) A pre-occupation with, and frequent emailing/texting of "the problem(s)" experienced by the youth, with the leader reciprocating in kind by a sharing of his/her own personal problems. At minimum such a youth leader should be removed from his/her leadership position, and receive re-training to understand the power imbalance inherent in a mentoring relationship. At worst the police may have to step in to protect the youth from behavior that is self-serving or even predatory.

It is a leader's responsibility to set and maintain proper boundaries, those spelled out by a Safe Church Policy. And it is a leader's responsibility to stay in the mentorship role and not equalize the relationship, even if the youth would welcome it.

Thank you for your comment. There could be many solutions to this question and there is value to sharing what has worked in your church community. I hope others will add to this site their solutions how to keep a child safety policy front and center as each new church year begins.

Second Question: File all approved policies in one binder and if possible publish all policies (without names) on the church web site.

One answer to question of the week:

The first steps are concensus building and promotion. Begin by requesting in writing that a Safe Church Coordinator (SCC) be appointed by Council. Before writing the letter, float the idea to your Chair of Council, to your Pastor, and to anyone else on council who you think might be interested in having this policy implemented. In discussion, work at building concensus. In the letter to your Council include a possible job description for a SCC, and recommend some names of people whom you think would be willing and able. Talk to both men and women whom you feel share your desire for Safe Church policy implementation. Talk also to heads of other church ministries -- Sunday School, Nursery, GEMS, Cadets and Youth Group primarily -- and brainstorm with them how the volunteers under their supervision can best implement the policy requirements that pertain to their ministry.

If all of this begins to sound like a full-time job, don't despair. Take the long view and seize the conversational opportunities when they present themselves (e.g., over coffee after a church service, at congregational meetings, etc.). Be prepared to engage in advocacy for quite some time. In other words -- be patient but persistent!

Here's a couple ideas for Abuse Awareness Sunday -
1) Create a short article for churches to publish in their monthly newsletter the month before the Sunday or of the Sunday. The material for this article could be about the same as would have been on a bulletin insert. The article could be sent to churches via their email address. The church newsletter editor could add a few sentences about what the church is doing on Abuse Awareness Sunday. This method would conserve paper (by not using a bulletin insert) and would reach all church members in time to anticipate the theme Sunday.

2) Change Abuse Awareness Sunday from September to October or April. In the US, October is Domestic Violence Month, and April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

What do others think?

Good words are creative. "And God said,"Let there be light!" From the beginning that is the way it was to be. However, after Adam and Eve's fall words could also be destructive. They could do just the opposite of their original purpose. Instead of building up, they do tear down.
When words are used destructively again and again they suck the life out of a person. When so much of a person's value is destroyed it may be a relief to be physically attacked. Or the person may have so little "self" left that they begin to believe in some way they deserve not just the words but also the physical punishment.

posted in: Sticks and stones

Thank you for the great suggestion. If a person in your local church or community has a story of healing or restoration that he or she will share, that story becomes a powerful witness to other people who have been abused and to the general church member who may be unaware of how abuse impacts a person's life. Are you thinking of a 3-minute video to be shown during a worship service? Perhaps through these blog comments, someone may be encouraged to begin a journey of disclosure that could be shared with the broader church.

Thank you, Fellowship CRC, those are clear and helpful ideas. I think offering a "cafeteria" of resources allows each church to pick what works best in their setting. I'll keep your suggestions at hand as we begin planning for Abuse Awareness.

I've been thinking about this Sunday and wonder if we could focus on what makes a church healthy, so that it prevents abuse. Healthy individuals, families, church communities decrease the likelihood of abuse. Isn't that prevention also. It brings a more positive attitude the whole discussion and empowers people with things they can DO rather than don't do.

I would like to suggest that the Abuse Prevention Team create a video about some "success" stories. We are constantly hearing the same information about the importance of doing thorough screening, proper procedures, etc. Are there any stories of success where someone who was abused has come to experience healing through the work of their church's Abuse Prevention Team? I know abuse is never a happy story, but healing ought to be.

The best way to interface with us is to send an e-mail to our church's e-mail address fellowshipcrc.edmonton@gmail.com with appropriate resources pasted on the e-mail. Items such as short well worded litanies, and careful selection of songs would enable us to incorporate that into our worship service. The e-mail should arrive at least three weeks before the appropriate Sunday.

We do not like to use bulletin inserts or other paper based items intended for each member.

Thank you for raising the issue of "spiritual talk". I'm not quite sure how to respond to spiritual talk. Mostly, I feel guilty for even thinking about challenging it when I hear it. I'll give an example. What does "That's a God thing" mean? Isn't everything a God thing? If I agree with the speaker, I'm probably saying that just to be nice. I'm tempted to challenge it, but then will the speaker think I don't give credit to God for His work? See, it just messes me up. The use of spiritual talk reminds me of peer pressure. Others judge you as "in" or "out" depending on whether you say what they say. Those judgments get elevated to a greater impact when people use scriptures to justify the judgments.

I agree that the perfect screening procedure does not exist. However, if a tool is inadequate by itself (the criminal record check), then we should be willing to seek out other steps of screening. An application form can ask about an applicant's experience with other organizations. For example, was the applicant dismissed or terminated for misconduct? Interviews are another important screening step. During an interview, the applicant might describe his or her conduct with a child which could lead the interviewer to question the applicant's suitability to work with that age group. And references are not just about asking your best friends for a rosey review. Some friends or co-workers will share the concerns they have about an applicant if they are assured the source won't be shared with the applicant. The point to be made here is that we should do due diligence to assure parents and guests to our churches that we have taken reasonable steps to consider the appropriateness of each volunteer for a position. What do other people think?

I've been thinking about your blog and I wonder if part of the answer is that as a church we believe that God and the Bible are the answers to healing. For example: God is love, God heals and the importance of forgiveness. In our minds God is good. What we fail to realize is that in the mind of the victim, the abuse, the pain, the horror, the opposite of love, good and healing has now become almost inseparately linked to God. What the church can do is back off the "spiritual talk". There will come a time for that but it might be a long time before the person is able to include God in the journey. The church can be praying for protection of the victim, that he or she won't wonder away from God, that healing will come. The church should not be quick to push an agenda of forgiveness. The church should show what God's love is by their actions and words. Practical help, acceptance of where the person is at are two examples. The church might want to talk more about Jesus rather than God if that is helpful. The church should be sure to ASK the victim what they need and not assume they know. The journey out of the pain of spiritual abuse can take a long time. Is the church ready to walk that journey no matter how long and curved the road is?

The article seems to suggest that there are more steps of screening that will reveal who past abusers particularly for those who have not been convicted. It would be helpful to know what those steps are if indeed they exist. The perfect screening procedure does not exist. Will reference checks (presumably supplied by the volunteer) or personal interviews reveal something more?

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