We All Need’m: Rules For the Good Kids

Good kids blog post“Have you met my kids? My 8 year-old is training for a marathon, my 5th grader just open their second lemonade franchise, and the baby has been driving the family four-wheelers since she was 3. (Just wait to you meet some of the homeschool families at our church.) You really don’t think my kids can be trusted to walk the twenty yards from their Sunday school class room to the sanctuary?”

Ok, so maybe the above is a little bit of a stretch, but parents with responsible kids legitimately wonder why their kids have to follow the rules their church adopted to keep those water balloon throwing hooligans under control. The answer is simple. We live in a fallen world. Below our three reasons all kids need to be protected

Good Kids Make Bad Choices

We have to need rules because even the most responsible kids sin. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that our churches need rules in-part to keep godly men and women from temptation. In the same manner, we create rules that prevent kids from being unnecessarily tempted. Now, I am not talking about getting rid of game time or of throwing away the crayons because kids fight. If anything those fights provide our adults leaders with an opportunity to preach the gospel. One kid’s sin does not necessitate we change our kids program. But, we should actively seek to curb temptations that place our kid’s lives in danger. And though only a few kids would ever think of secretly escaping to McDonalds after Sunday school, some do; even some of the “good” kids have these thoughts.

True story: several  years ago, a usually compliant 8 year-old gal with a kind disposition asked to go the restroom. As usual, she was granted permission to make to short walk from the gym to the lobby.  About 15 minutes later, she was caught happily waltzing back into church with a newly minted soda in hand. Turns out, she had skipped the restrooms all together. Instead, she walked past the tree line and into our local Walmart to purchase her caffeine fix for the day.

Ultimately, neither you nor I can fully know what’s in our kid’s hearts or what they are capable of doing (even while at church). And as I learned from the Walmart run, no kid is above making really bad choices. The church that loves kids establishes rules prevent kids from being reckless.

No Kid Is Out Of Evil’s Reach

Second, we need check-in and check-out guidelines because others are watching. Kidnappers can and do target churches. A kid can be swept up in an instant. Even the “responsible” kid who never varies from her parents’ directions could quickly be snatched away by someone with evil intent if left unattended. And if we let a kid wonder off by himself, we are inviting trouble upon trouble. He could be kidnapped (not to mention getting hit by a car) before we snap our fingers. Because we have no clue where said kid is, we will be slow to access and respond to the situation. By only allowing kids to leave a classroom with a parent, our churches greatly discourage predators (don’t forget ex-spouses) from gaining access to our kids. It’s very hard to snatch or hurt a child who is under constant observation. Churches establish rules not because of your kid, but because of those who could harm  your kid.

Favoritism Impedes The Gospel

Lastly, we want to avoid the appearance of playing favorites. If we allow certain kids to break the rules, we will give the appearance of playing favorites (And it’s quite possible that we are showing favoritism). In today’s racially and socially charged world, we don’t want to do anything that would cause a visitor to think we value wealth or certain races more than others. “Oh the white kid hoping into the BMW got to leave early, but you want me to so my ID card?”

But even more important than today’s social climate is the scriptural mandate to avoid favoritism.

Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.  But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors (James 2:8-9).

As Christians, we must put forth every effort to love all equally. The pastors’ kids who know their church’s campus backwards and forwards should be held to the same standard as the most lost visitor. To be loving churches, we have to diligently protect every child without exception.

Being A Family Doesn’t Make Your Kids Safe

family myth blog“We are all family here,” was a common refrain I heard when my church implemented its new check-in system. Since I was the new guy in town, the next comment usually went something like this, “We get that you don’t know anybody, but we do; all this security stuff isn’t really necessary. So, you’re going to stop it once you learn everyone’s name, right?” Not quite. At FBCE, we continue to strengthen our security and safety measures precisely because we do know everyone. And it ain’t good. Look what Paul says about our family, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12).

We Are All Bad

Although media moguls of Nickelodeon, Oprah, and Disney teach us that people are basically good, the Bible does the opposite. According to scripture, every baby is born a sinner (Ps. 51:5). Every baby is born with a disposition to do evil and to always do evil (Rom. 3:23). When left alone, people naturally make bad, selfish choices that hurt harm others (Gen. 6:5). The Biblical view of humanity teaches us to adopt a healthy skepticism of people’s intentions especially when protecting children.   

We Got Tricked

Now thankfully when it comes to kids at church, many of the sinners who walk through our doors have been transformed by the gospel. But can you tell which men and women love Jesus and which ones want to groom a 12 year-old boy to be their spouse? In time yes, we can spot the frauds.  People will be known by their fruit (Matt. 7:16). Their works, actions, and words will eventually reveal what’s going on in their hearts. But how long will this process take? How long will it take us to spot the false Christians? After all, false Christians were able to fool the disciples and the early church fathers because Jesus allows the weeds to grow right next to the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30). Liars, unrepentant sinners, are in our churches and bent on harm. Are we willing to give them the chance to hurt our kids while we sift through the evidence?

The Sad Reality 

man free blogAnd false Christians continue to successfully infiltrate our Christian circles. Just in my own circle, I can think of two tragic deceptions relating to kids ministry (not to mention the sad stories of pastors, elders, and church members falling into all kinds of sexual and financial sins). First, I played football with kids whose parents seemed to be model Christians. The parents had good jobs, dressed well, and even had regular family devotions with the  large family. But when the Bible was closed and no one was looking, the father sexual abused his children for over twenty years. No one at their church knew or suspected anything. Second, I think back to my youth group days. One of the most faithful small group, and mission trip leaders cheated on his spouse the entire time he served. Lacking tattoos and a scary drug filled past, he dressed, and talked like all the other adults, and, yet harbored a deadly secret sin.  If we are truthful, we have to admit that we don’t know what’s in a person’s heart. As Jeremiah writes

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it (17:9)?

We need to put up hedges around our children to protect them from false Christians intent on harming God’s church.

Yep, We Still Got Problems

And lastly, we need to protect kids from ourselves. Though we are redeemed, we are not perfect; we still sin; we still face all kinds of temptations from the world, our heart, and Satan. Even the apostle Paul lamented, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).  We need to be skeptical of our own ability to consistently avoid evil and to follow Jesus. If you doubt me, think back to Noah who got drunk, Abraham who slept with a family employee, and David who had an affair with the girl next before killing her husband. These were all great men of God who succumbed to sin. To love our brothers and sisters in Christ and to care for our own souls, we need to keep ourselves out of bad situations. We need to create policies and checks that will prevent even the most mature Christian from having a chance to molest a 5 year-old girl. Nothing is more loving and representative of the people of God than keeping a brother and sister from sin and a child from harm.

Regardless of blood lines and geographical proximity, we don’t know people all that well. And what we do know about them from scriptures, screams, “Don’t trust them. Don’t trust yourself.” We called to treat sinners with skepticism and believers with caution when it comes to caring for kids at church. We live in a world tainted with sin. To pretend that we don’t isn’t loving; it is ridiculously dangerous and may expose our kids to all kinds of horrors.  

The Threat of Chaos

1 (2)In my mind, the ultimate goal of every kids’ class, messy activity or fun outing is to see kids embrace Christ as their Lord and savior.  This is why I get up and go to work every morning. And the more I minister with families, the more I see the need for creating a safe environments for our kids. If the gospel is going to take root in our kids, we need to have ministries that make kids (and their parents) feel safe, loved, and welcomed. If Sunday school is a crazy mob, if nursery is a rotating mess, and if the canoe trip is an uncertified disaster, we will lose countless chances to proclaim the gospel. Chaos impedes both teaching and listening (not to mention, it scares new parents away like the plague).

The Greatest Threat

But chaos does even more. Chaos creates an unsafe environment. It creates a space where kids can be sexual molested, verbal abused, and even kidnapped. When everything is out of control, we won’t notice if a kid is missing or if an adult is out of place, taking a special interest in a child. If a crime occurs in the kids’ wing, our church will instantly lose its gospel witness almost instantly. If we want to reach (and continue to reach) our community for Christ, we must do everything in our power to create a safe environment for the kids attending coming to our church. To do anything less is to expose our kids to danger, joining the notorious ranks of those who actively discourage kids from following Jesus (Mark 10:13-16).

Organization Promotes Safety

To keep kids safe, we must proactively establish volunteer screening processes, service regulations, and operational guidelines. And we also have to diligently follow our procedures once implemented. We can’t just say kids are secure and wish them into safety. “The Leave it to Beaver” days are gone. We have to take action and place a hedge around our kids. Now to be fair, no amount of background checks, interviews, and appropriate student teacher ratios can stop all evil. But such measures discourage sex offenders and others seeking to harm our kids.

The Threat is Real

And, evil men and women do target church kids. In his book On Guard, Deepak Reju shares these troubling words spoken by a former prosecutor:

For a variety of reasons, we naively tend to automatically lower our guard when we are amongst professing Christians. This same naiveté is why offenders flock to the faith community; no other environment provides them such quick and easy access to children without fear of raising concerns -41.

Some researchers estimate that 1 of every 3 girls will be molested and 1 of every 4 boys will be molested (p7).  If we don’t on guardguard against sexual abuse (not to mention kidnapping, physical abuse, and verbal abuse), our kids will be vulnerable and will be taken advantage of even while in our colorfully decorated children’s buildings. Being aware of these unpleasant realities, FBCE recently adopted a new Children’s Policy manual and will continue to evaluate and improved our safety protocols. There are all kinds of people activity working to harm our kids; we must be actively working to protect our kids. The salvation of the next generations depends on our efforts. Unfortunately, many church members and even some pastors still doubt the need for security measures, irrationally believing their church is safe.  Over the next several weeks, I wish to tackle five common misconceptions swirling around our churches. They go something like this:

  1. We all know each other; we are a close community; you could say we’re all family. You’d never run a background check on your parents?
  2. All these safety measures will ultimately hurt our ability to reach kids. By being so focused on security, you are going to scare away volunteers and families looking for a friendly, caring church. We want to be like Jesus, putting people before programs.
  3. My kids are responsible. Sure some kids might get in trouble, but not mine. And we have so many friends at church it’s like there’s a parent in every room.
  4. We don’t have time. Church is busy. We are running to Sunday school and then to the service, and then to lunch. And now you are asking us to add another thing to our day that will make us late to both Sunday school and to the service?
  5. Security is not that big a deal. Our town is safe. Nothing bad ever happens here. Why get so worked up?

I would love to hear you thoughts and ideas on child safety at church. What things have you seen that you like or would change? Do you think policy manuals, protocols, and check-in and out procedures are necessary?