What's the Number One Reason Churches Go to Court?
Q: What’s the number one reason churches go to court?
Pastor Doug sat down with his morning coffee, opened up the browser on his Mac, and clicked in the web address for the local newspaper. When the page loaded, he stared at his own face on the front page in front of a bank of microphones. He’d been on the front page before, but that was a result of the church’s humanitarian efforts. This time it was very different. A youth worker had been indicted for having a sexual relationship with more than one member of the youth group. Pastor Doug was answering questions about what the church had done to stop it.
A: The number one reason churches go to court is the sexual abuse of minors under their care.
While it’s not a comfortable subject to talk about—churches are often prime targets for sexual predators because of the access—often easy access—predators have to youth and children.
Reynolds Law Group, PLLC recommends a strategyto reduce the risk of sexual abuse in churches with three clear goals: 1) protecting minors; 2) protecting innocent volunteers; and 3) protecingt the congregation.
One of the greatest responsibilities of the church as is to protect its youngest members because these members cannot protect themselves. Churches can protect minors by establishing clear policies regarding interaction with minors by volunteers, conducting criminal background checks for all volunteers, and training volunteers in how to detect and report signs of sexual abuse.
Protecting Innocent Volunteers
In addition to the interest in protecting minors, your church has an interest in protecting innocent volunteers. How? Some churches have chosen to digitally record all activity in the nursery and children’s classes in order to protect children from abusers and protect innocent volunteers from false accusations. Other churches have installed one-way glass windows so parents can check on pre-school children without being noticed. Many churches have adopted volunteer policies that safeguard volunteers from ever being alone with a minor.
Protecting the Congregation
Again, the number one reason a church winds up in court is sexual abuse. The cost of the abuse to the minor, the minor’s family, and the church is calculated in much more than money—but in reputation and in the ability to continue to minister effectively in the community. A well thought-out and implemented policy regarding ministry to minors goes a long way to protecting both the church’s assets and ability to effectively minister.
Reynolds Law Group offers a turn-key program, Keeping Them Safe, that provides the following:
Child, Youth, and Volunteer Protection Policy
Children’s and Youth Ministry Volunteer Application
Children’s and Youth Ministry Volunteer Background Screening Policy
Children’s and Youth Ministry Volunteer Background Screening Consent and Release
Youth Ministry E-Communication Policy and Annual Affirmation
Six Video Training Sessions for all Children’s and Youth Ministry Volunteers and Employees