Churches have often been thought of as a safe haven. Parents felt comfortable when they left their children . They assumed they were in one of the safest environments possible.
Unfortunately, even churches are experiencing the same crimes that impact our world today. From pickpocketing to sexual abuse and mass shootings, evil has found its way into church environments for decades.
In the past, it was easy for leaders to convince themselves it could never happen in their congregation or dismiss crimes as rare events that would never occur again. As a result, churches made few changes and were often still vulnerable to anyone who chose to take advantage of these people who were less suspicious than in other environments.
We can no longer afford to leave the children, teens and adults who attend our churches and ministry events vulnerable. If you are not a church leader, it is important you encourage them to make sure they have critical policies and training in place.
There are several groups providing free information to help churches and ministries make sure they have everything they need in place to keep children, teens and adults safe from sexual predators, mass shooters and unsafe practices.
Here are some of the resources we found that seemed to have a lot of helpful information:
- Brotherhood Mutual Safety Library. This insurance company has one of the best free online risk management libraries I have seen. The forms themselves are worth going to the website. They have almost every form a ministry would ever need to keep their ministry safe. You don’t need to purchase anything to access their resources. https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/resources/safety-library/
- Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship. This website is connected to FEMA. It contains the U.S. government’s recommendations for developing a safety plan for churches. https://rems.ed.gov/overviewemergencyoperationsplans.aspx
- Emergency Shooter Plan. This is another government website that explains exactly what people should do if they find themselves in a situation with an active shooter. https://www.ready.gov/active-shooter
- Volunteer Screening Trends and Best Practices. This report breaks down many of the options for screening volunteers and gives best practices. It also reveals that when this report was complied in 2018 how very few (primarily secular) organizations were screening volunteers appropriately. https://www.sterlingvolunteers.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/VV-GDE-2018-Report.pdf
- Other best practices. While this manual of best practices is essentially for day care, preschool and similar types of situations, it contains a lot of important safety information. Volunteer to child ratios, health safety, playground safety and other issues possibly impacting your ministry are covered. https://nrckids.org/files/CFOC3_updated_final.pdf
No one likes reading through pages and pages of risk management materials, auditing practices and procedures and creating necessary forms, policies, procedures and training. A child or teen hurt by a negative experience in your ministry can have their faith shattered, not to mention the possible physical, mental and psychological damage. It’s worth taking the time and effort to do everything that is necessary to protect the children, teens and volunteers in your ministry or church.