Children and youth are valued in nearly every culture on the planet.
But because they often cannot protect themselves, it is the duty and responsibility of parents, community and tribal leaders to protect them in any and every way possible.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that is increasingly hostile to the joy and innocence of kids, and finds ways to manipulate them to their advantage. Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) is an ever-increasing plague. The rapid and open exchange of information provides an anonymous and unregulated outlet for pornography and things that were, at other points in history, difficult to obtain for people. Our media savvy and entertainment driven society feeds on the whims and wants of carnal human nature, thus exposing unnecessary images, words, situations, and humor to children and youth and adults in an unprecedented way. Because our world is not very safe, we’ve had to train our children to not talk to strangers, never to be by themselves, and to stay within sight when playing in a neighborhood.
The statistics are startling.
- The National Center on Child Abuse reports that one out of every five girls and one out of eight boys is a victim of some form of sexual abuse by the age of 12.
- The incidence of abuse peaks between the ages of 8-12.
- We also know that in over 65% of the cases the child knows the offender
- Children from every economic station, race, and family style are victims.
- Abusers, as well, are generally upstanding citizens who are married with their own children.
Churches can be potential targets for abusers because:
- they are relatively trusting of volunteers,
- generally have poor screening policies for volunteers,
- and provide opportunities for close contact and relationships with children.
Because of these factors, we must know what child abuse is, be able to recognize it, put plans in place to prevent it, screen our volunteers appropriately, and have a solid response system.
In addition to protecting children and youth from potential abuse and abusers, a system of organization and explicit expectations of volunteers who serve in a variety of ways with youth and children needs to exist so that all volunteers and staff (adult and non-adult) are on the same page. Again, this is primarily for the protection of youth and children and not some grandiose system of control.
Folks in the children and youth ministry world often call this system of organization “Child and Youth Protection Plans” or policies and procedures relating to the engagement with minors. Recognizing the need to encourage churches and organizations that have young people as its targeted vocation, The Wesleyan Church’s Church Multiplication and Discipleship Division Children’s Ministry Leadership Team is putting together a few resources together to get people started in creating these policies as well as shore up their existing policies. We will be posting sample policies as well as real-world policies shared generously by churches. We would also like to compile a list of companies and organizations who provide comprehensive background checks for churches and organizations with minors as its constituents.
You can view these sample policies and background check organizations here: Children & Youth Policies