The Pen State scandal and the recent issues faced by New Tribes Mission remind us of the critical importance of ensuring that ministries do everything they can to protect the minor children under their care. Many churches in the United States have a way of vetting  those who work with children but mission organizations may not always be aware of their liability with short term teams coming out, or with their own staff.

For example, orphanages or kids ministries in the majority world can be targets of opportunity for pedophiles as they know that there may be less scrutiny than in the west. In addition, in any given year, tens of thousands of kids and adults from churches in the US go abroad to work with children internationally. The question is whether mission agencies take appropriate measures with those who will have contact with children on those trips.

One, require a background check such as a local church would do for those who will be working overseas with minors - either missionary kids or local children.

Two, before the event, train the adults and children involved in the procedures you have in place to prevent any abuse or opportunities for abuse. Most local churches have such procedures in place that you can borrow from. A best practice would be a mission wide procedure for training those working with minors.

Three, have a zero tolerance policy for mission staff or those working as volunteers. If an incident occurs, report it immediately to both the immediate supervisor and a senior leader. The reason you report it to both a senior leader and the immediate supervisor is to ensure that it is not covered up. If it involves a short term team member, that member should immediately be flown home. If an allegation is made against someone on staff, they must immediately be removed from all contact with minors and if proven they should be removed from the mission. Pedophiles are highly likely to re-offend and no ministry can take that chance. In addition, ensure that the intake process for full time missionaries includes testing for personality disorders and pathology. Tests like the MMPI can save you a lot of pain by keeping the wrong people from going to the field in the first place.

Four, never cover up an offence of pedophilia. The greatest tragedy of the New Tribes episode is that they chose to protect offenders, even leaving them in place or transferring them to other schools. Even those they called home were not held accountable. This allowed, like it appears at Penn State, for the abuse to continue. Protecting the abuser virtually guarantees further victims.

Five, take responsibility for helping a victim get help. The victim is not the individual who offended but the individual they violated. It is amazing to me that in both ministry and places like Penn State there was a greater protection of the violator than the victim. This is a huge violation of trust - as New Tribes discovered and Penn State will discover. Hold the accuser responsible, don't cover up and do all you can to get the victim help.

Minor children must be protected in every way we can from those who would abuse them and cause them a lifetime of emotional trauma. Does your mission have safeguards in place?

  • Nov 16, 2011
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
Leave a comment