I have heard many times, “we never thought it would happen to us”.
Of course, the only people that ever say that are people that it happened to.
Jared Wilson has some great ideas of what YOUR church should do to protect yourself from abuse and charges of abuse in your church. These are great suggestions. You really need to act on these before you find yourself as ‘one of those people’ who didn’t think it would ever happen to them:
1. All employees and all childcare and youth volunteers, or anyone else who has regular contact with children in the church or as a representative of the church, ought to undergo a criminal background check as thoroughly as possible.
2. A church should have a membership structure and a church should exercise church discipline.
3. Churches ought to have a “safe sanctuary” policy in place. Get consultation with an outside firm if necessary, but have a thorough, thoughtful plan in place that “intentionalizes” safety for children and others at risk.
4. Every officer in the church should have real accountability. To elders, to the congregation, to real people with real authority in the church body, and to a network or denominational board outside the local body if the church is part of one. And this must be real accountability, real authority, not figureheads or “yes men.”
5. It must be taught to pastors and counselors that confidentiality is a matter of discernment. Pastors are not priests or lawyers or doctors. They are not bound to confidentiality, nor should they be if someone is in danger. In matters of abuse, it must be taught that confidentiality should be employed only if it genuinely protects a victim, not simply because it will protect a church’s reputation or alternately out of some spiritualized fear of hurting an abuser.
6. On that note, we must educate our church what grace is, what repentance is, what forgiveness is, and what reconciliation is. What do they look like? We must understand that the gospel is often a severe mercy to abusers, even genuinely repentant ones, and so it means consequences — disciplinary in the church, legal outside — and accountability.
7. A church must be honest about what it can and can’t do. Too many churches assume help found outside the church body is by definition “worldly” or that all problems must be handled totally in-house. This is foolishness.
8. The discipleship culture of a church needs transparency and the welcome of grace. It must be a safe place to not be okay. This must be initiated and modeled by those in leadership.
Put this on your board agenda. It’s THAT important!