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 guard 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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?