According to the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, roughly 900,000 incidents of child abuse are reported each year. And considering it’s believed that less than 10 percent of sexual abuse cases are ever reported to authorities, the number of actual incidents each year is frightening.
How safe is your church? When it comes to risk management, talk is a great place to start, but action is required. Ministry leaders need to advocate for safety in services that are provided to children, youth, and the elderly.
Follow this checklist to make sure all ministry groups are compliant with basic safety practices:
- Conduct criminal background checks on all employees and volunteers who work with children and youth. Start with the staff and ministry leaders, then screen all your volunteers. Also be sure to rescreen workers with a consistent schedule that is determined by your leadership. Many insurance providers now require churches to conduct background checks annually.
- Always check references. Ask for this information on an application and follow-up through phone calls or sending out a reference survey. It can be mailed to each person listed as a reference or used as a phone interview tool.
- Conduct personal interviews with each ministry worker annually. Many churches interview workers to make a placement decision but don’t have continued contact during their term of service. Set up a timeline to touch base with workers to update any life issues that may impact their service.
- Provide continuing training for children’s and youth ministry workers. Training is the key to a safe ministry environment. Someone once said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” There is no replacement when it comes to making sure your workers know what to do—and how to do it.
- Regularly review written child-abuse-prevention policies. Safety procedures are worthless if they’re not taught and re-taught on a continuing basis. Make sure all new volunteers are aware of the policies and procedures as part of their orientation. Retrain often as continuing education efforts.
- Update program policies with changes as needed. A policy is only effective when it’s current and applicable. Local and state laws constantly change, so you’ll need to keep up with the practices that reflect what other child care providers are doing in your community.
My son’s 10th grade math teacher would tell his students, “When you don’t know what to do–—do something.” That’s good advice for volunteer screening! When it comes to safe ministry you have to start by doing. It’s a continuing process that evolves as you grow and expand. Determine today what’s something you can do to keep your ministry safe.