Keeping Children Safe in Our Churches

Keeping Children Safe in Our Churches

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I descended the stairs to the basement of my sister-in-law’s church, my four year-old in tow. I joined the line of moms and tots waiting to be signed in for child care during our MOPS meeting. When I reached the front of the line, a friendly young mom entered my family’s basic information into their computer system and printed out 2 labels with my son’s name and an identifying number: one label for me and one for him. His label went on his back, and mine on the front of my shirt. They would ensure that only I picked him up after the meeting.

This was my first visit to this church and this program, and they impressed me. Their investment in safety measures for my child reassured me that they take protecting children seriously.

It’s true that measures like the label system at my MOPS group aren’t always easy. It clearly required an investment in devices, software, and supplies. It necessitated training and adopting a new mindset and routine.

However, measures like this one protect children, and they are a step in the right direction toward safeguarding children in church environments.

In The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries, Baysle Tchividjian and Shira Berkovitz, together with a multidisciplinary GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) team of child abuse experts, lay out a detailed plan for assessing a church’s current child safety policies, how to protect children in church and ministry settings from child abuse, recognizing warning signs, crafting and implementing a child protection policy, caring for victims of abuse, and the legal implications and requirements for a church and ministries.

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The care and comprehensive treatment of child protection laid out in this book floored me. Although protecting children from abuse is slowly being talked about more, it is still far from the norm. This policy guide is brave, bold, and needed.

Even though I do not hold a position of leadership in my home church or regularly participate in children’s ministries specifically, this policy hits close to home for me. When a family member abused me during my childhood, my parents rightly sought the counsel of those in positions of religious authority in our faith community. Those leaders simply did not have the training to know how to direct and support my parents or me.

And that is tragic. As a result, more trauma followed.

Every necessary precaution and inconvenience to the body of Christ is worth it to prevent the damage done by sexual abuse of a child and its aftermath. While abuse anywhere is horrific, abuse within a faith community often includes the devastation of a child’s faith. Something not easily restored.

In addition to the step by step plan to developing a church policy of protection and implementation in this guide (complete with worksheets and sample policy language), I appreciate the inclusion of chapters on ministering to and supporting abuse survivors. This is something sorely lacking in many churches too.

The background information and philosophies behind this guide are critical for anyone with children in their lives, which is all of us!

It is so helpful to understand why Johnny doesn’t have to kiss Aunt Sally goodbye or what to do when a child in your care exhibits sexual behavior not normal for their age. Most of all, it equips individuals with the critical knowledge of abuse dynamics, how to handle it when abuse is discovered, and how to facilitate healing for survivors instead of compounding their trauma.

These are not easy topics, but this guide makes clear that no one is alone on the journey. GRACE is available to assist in developing and implementing these safeguarding policies in churches.

To end on a personal note, I have been following GRACE and some of its board members, specifically Boz Tchividjian and Diane Langberg for the last few years, and the genuine compassion, conviction, and boldness with which they speak about the issues of abuse of children and survivors has been instrumental in bringing levels of healing to my own history of trauma. I am truly grateful for them, and highly recommend them to anyone willing to learn more about protecting children.

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Learn more and order The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries. 

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I received a complimentary copy of The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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