Most churches take child safety very seriously. This is why so many churches use criminal background checks, personal references and an intense interview process. It is also why churches use the “Two Adult Policy,” where a child must be in the line of sight of two unrelated adults at all times. These policies are excellent at keeping a predator from being alone with a child. But with all your efforts, there is only one thing you must remember:
All a predator has to do is outlast you.
No matter how many policies you put in place, if they are confusing, riddled with exceptions and too easy to forget, a moment will come when your defenses are down.
So, child safety, boil your strategy down to these words: Sticky, Simple and Consistent.
Sticky Child Safety
Are your rules mentally portable? Do they stay with the volunteer long after their first encounter?
Simple Child Safety
Are there too many variables to your rules? Are your volunteers wondering with every situation which protocol to follow?
Are there too many exceptions to your rules? Do you find yourself telling a volunteer, “Well just this one time…” or hear them saying it? Do your volunteers feel free to bend the rules as they see fit?
Keeping your child safety rules Sticky, Simple and Consistent will do the following:
Child Safety Protects the Children
It will ensure that volunteers can easily recall what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to do it, keeping the children from dangerous situations. It will allow volunteers to communicate the policies to parents easily. It will also give volunteers no wiggle room for interpretation. A predator now has no way to craft an opportunity.
Child Safety Protects the Volunteers
It is rare, but a child may falsely accuse an adult of abuse. However, churches and legal authorities must take all accusations seriously. With the volunteer background-checked and never out of sight of a non-related volunteer, it is easier to clear the volunteer’s name before things go too far.
Child Safety Protects the Church
Churches with incidents of child abuse have their reputation as the loving body of Christ for their community questioned. Beyond the pain and suffering this causes the families within the church, the church itself is exposed to legal action. Simple and sticky policies, along with background checks and referrals, will show the courts the church did everything within its power to prevent abuse.
Abuse is not 100 percent preventable. Predators are patient and determined. However, if you take the necessary steps and never, ever let them slide, your church will not be an attractive environment for predators.
For help with your child safety policies, there are several wonderful organizations, like GRACE. If you need professional help, contact one of these organizations.
In our Ministry Accelerator Community on Slack, we talk about the ministry challenges we face today. To join, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “ I want to join the community,” in the subject line. We would love to meet you.
This article originally appeared here.