EDITOR’S NOTE: In the latest Radio B&R podcast, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board administrative director William Maxwell and childhood ministry specialist Vicki Hulsey addressed the crucial steps that churches need to take in order to ensure the safety and protection of children. The podcast can be found here.
Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Churches must do all they can to protect minors and others from sexual abuse, said two experts from the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, who noted some practical steps churches can take immediately that will deter prospective predators.
The comments were made during a recent Radio B&R podcast titled, “Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse” (available here). During the podcast, TBMB administrative director William Maxwell and childhood ministry specialist Vicki Hulsey, discuss a TBMB document titled, “12 Things Churches Can Do to Protect Children.”
The document and podcast are in response to the increase in the number of calls TBMB has received in the wake of a series of articles released last week by the Houston Chronicle dealing with sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, with most of the victims being children or youth.
As Maxwell pointed out in the podcast, this isn’t a new issue but obviously the dominant news issue because of the breaking newspaper story.
This is something that the TBMB has been helping churches with for a long time through training and personal consultations. Hulsey said she makes it a point to discuss child protection when she is working with churches to a large degree because many don’t believe they need it.
“What is surprising to me are the number of churches that say to me, ‘Oh that won’t happen here because we’re a small church and everybody knows everybody,’ ” she said. “They are shocked when I go on to share statistics with them that most minors are not abused by a stranger but by somebody they know and trust.”
Maxwell, added that the place to start is to actually have policies and practices in place that outline expectations for all staff and volunteers in dealing with minors. First on that list is background screening.
“The first thing to do is to make sure that you are using a reputable background screening service,” he said and added, “No, background screenings don’t always catch everything but having a rigorous process in place is also a deterrent for a predator. They won’t stay around someplace long if there are processes in place that increase their chances of being caught.”
Maxwell said during the podcast, “One of the reasons churches have been hit by this is because other organizations like schools, scouts and others have gotten out ahead of us on the screening process . (Predators) have migrated to churches because they knew it was an easier field.”
Hulsey added: “It is extremely important for everyone in the church to know there is a childcare policy. And not only is it important that they know there is a policy … they need to follow it.”