The Southern Baptist Convention met this week in Nashville for their annual meeting. One of the main topics of discussion surrounded how to handle sexual misconduct. A resolution was passed declaring that those who commit sexual abuse will be permanently disqualified from holding the office of Pastor. This is a tough subject, but an important one, especially for women.
As such, I will be direct – If you have been sexually abused physically at church, report it to the police immediately. This is not something that should be reported elsewhere within the church first. Go directly to the authorities to report this crime.
Many of you are Women’s Ministry Leaders, so the rest of this post is for you. It is important to be good listeners, approachable, trusted and perceptive. Predators are counting on our assumptions that all who attend church would never do such things. So, how can we be more pro-active in creating an anti-abuse culture in our churches? Here are some ideas to share with and work in tangent with your staff to implement:
- Have accountability meetings with all staff members. Pastors should be asked regularly by their lead pastor about any issues they are struggling with, which may become a serious issue if not addressed. I first heard beloved pastor Chuck Swindoll doing this with his staff many years ago.
- Conduct thorough Background checks on every person who works in children’s and youth ministry.
- Implement systems to minimize abuse opportunities. In our children’s ministry, for instance, we do not allow married couples to serve together unless there is a third-party present. It is not out of the realm of possibility that a husband could convince a wife to help facilitate his abuse plans.
- Training on this topic should be conducted at least annually among all teachers, deacons and other pastoral staff. It doesn’t have to be a stand-alone training but could be included in annual or periodic refresher training.
- Training and/or notices should be provided to congregants on how to report inappropriate behavior. Training can be done during new church member orientation and youth orientation. I suggest posting How to Report Abuse notices in the women’s restrooms, as well as, the restrooms in the youth department.
- A message from the pulpit on the church’s position of zero tolerance of any abusive behavior should be given at least annually.
- Classes on how to conduct investigations should be taught to the appropriate group at church who may be given this task.
- Take every report of abuse seriously and treat the one reporting abuse with dignity. This is best demonstrated by starting an investigation within a matter of days, reporting back with your findings, and taking the appropriate actions.
If your church would like to know more about safeguarding your campus, I recommend this forward-thinking and comprehensive prevention tool for churches – GRACE Safeguarding Initiative HERE.