As I’ve said many times, I’m a fan of the leadership advice provided by Thom Rainer at his Growing Healthy Churches Together blog. He recently posted Eleven Vital Steps to Minimize Risk of Child Sex Abuse in Your Church:
- Require membership in the church for an established length of time for anyone who applies to work or volunteer in your children’s ministry. Hammar recommends six months.
- Require a written application from both employees and volunteers who work with and around children. Keep digital copies of the applications.
- Conduct personal interviews with each person who applies. Keep digital copies of notes from the interviews.
- Perform reference checks. Again, keep your digital notes of the conversations.
- Run criminal background checks of each applicant. Here is one source to get this information.
- Run each candidate’s name through the national sex offender registry. The site is nsopw.gov.
- Be diligent about the two-adult rule. A minor should never be left alone with one adult anytime or any place.
- Keep all records permanently. In many states discovery is allowed decades after the alleged event occurred.
- Have a clear response plan. All leaders and those working with or near children should know how to respond quickly to protect the victim and to comply with all laws.
- Have ongoing training for volunteers and staff. Redundancy could save a child. It also demonstrates the church’s diligence in this serious matter.
- Make certain your church’s groups operate under all the guidelines of the church as a whole. Church small groups are increasingly becoming more common venues for allegations of child sex abuse.
I would add: Do not procrastinate and If you have a social worker among your members or friends, involve him or her in the process. Every state is different, and it’s the social workers who know the system best.