Like many of you, I have felt sick to my stomach hearing the allegations linked to the Penn State coaching staff. One of my prayers related to this story is that as children’s ministry leaders we won’t “waste this pain”. We must not allow this horrible tragedy to pass without revisiting conversations with parents and volunteers educating them on the importance of following good safety practices. If there is anything redeeming to emerge from this awful story, perhaps it is a more receptive audience among parents and volunteers previously opposed to child protection policies.
If you serve in a leadership role or on staff at a church, it is your moral obligation to:
1) Develop a Parent & Volunteer Handbook that succinctly outlines your church’s child protection policies and safety rules.
2) Publicize and train the caregivers on the policies. A failure to adequately educate the ministry team is an unacceptable failure in leadership.
3) Enforce the written policies. While people are always more important than policies, the consequences of ignored safety practices cannot be emphasized enough. Consistently enforcing the policy will protect the participating children, caregivers, and church body from merited and unmerited accusations of abuse.
For several great examples of safety policies, see this post on Kenny Conley’s blog (www.childrensministryonline.com).
This past weekend I spoke at the Illuminate Conference at Gateway Church in Austin, Tx. As I passed through the children’s ministry hallways and classrooms I was thrilled to see visual reminders posted everywhere, reinforcing important protection policies. As you will see below, there are oodles of best practices shown in the pictures of the Kids Quest physical space. Kenny Conley and Cathy Harwick are the leaders behind Gateway’s children’s ministry.
I love this document! Even well meaning children’s ministry volunteers may need a reminder for appropriate displays of praise and interest. And by having the guidelines posted, those not-so-well meaning folks may be weeded out or identified. Don’t be naive enough to think that your church would never encounter a volunteer with less than noble intentions.
(Sorry for the blurry picture). As you pass through the baby hall, you see two laminated signs on each door (see below).
1) It creates unnecessary chaos in the environment
2) It allows individuals to enter a room that aren’t approved and don’t need to there.
One church (not the church featured in this post) recently shared a story with me where a parent always wanted to come inside the room during drop-off. This parent often became resistant to leave when it became evident their child no longer needed them. The church later discovered that this parent also had a history of inappropriate contact with children. Preventing unscreened and unauthorized individuals – including parents- from entering classrooms may be the best policy a church creates and enforces!
I highly recommend reading the following three posts provided by fellow kidmin bloggers:
Policies, Predators, and Penn State Football – Jared Kennedy
How to Protect Your Own Child from Abuse – Jenny Funderburke
Time to Find Our Voice – Roger Fields