SBTC offers four Safeguarding Church Ministry conferences to aid churches in child sexual abuse prevention

Child abuse

GRAPEVINE—Sexual abuse of children in churches and ministries is a pervasive yet little discussed problem with devastating moral and legal ramifications. The SBTC, in conjunction with Fort Worth-based Ministry Safe, will offer four Safeguarding Church Ministry conferences in 2015 geared toward educating church pastors, leaders and children’s ministry workers in sexual abuse awareness and prevention.

“The reality for many churches is that they don’t think they have an issue, but statistically speaking, many abusers come from within the church—up to 94 percent,” said Lance Crowell, SBTC ministry associate, citing evidence provided by Ministry Safe. “We want to raise awareness for our churches that we are in an age when you have to do due diligence for everyone. Up to 90 percent of sexual abusers do not show up in routine background checks.”

“We want to help our churches and their children avoid heartache,” said Mark Yoakum, SBTC Director of Church Ministries. “We want to be proactive rather than reactive.”

“Primarily, each conference will focus on security in the preschool, children’s and youth ministry areas. The SBTC is providing this training led by attorneys Greg Love and Kimberlee Norris,” Yoakum said.

The first training session is scheduled for March 26 at First Baptist Church in Colleyville. Subsequent conferences will be held Aug. 15 at Fallbrook Baptist Church in Houston, Sept. 24 at Flint Baptist Church near Tyler, and Oct. 8 at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin.  Each conference will run from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. with lunch provided. Cost per attendee is $10.

Yoakum recommends churches participate in the sexual abuse awareness training for the following reasons: insurance companies often require such training, plans must be in place to protect workers and members, churches are increasingly involved in lawsuits over incidents, and the church’s children deserve to be protected. “The last reason is the most important,” Yoakum added.

Love and Norris are practicing attorneys who specialize in litigating child abuse cases. They founded Ministry Safe to assist churches and other organizations in prevention. 

Ministry Safe maintains that 60 million people—one in five Americans—suffer childhood sexual abuse, most of which are not reported until the victims are adults, if ever.

The definition of child sexual abuse is broader than most people think, according to the Ministry Safe website, ministrysafe.com. In most state penal codes, child sexual abuse is typically defined as the following: “Any tricked, forced, manipulated or coerced sexual activity for the pleasure of the abuser,” Love said.

Sexual abuse need not involve physical touch. With broad legal definitions geared toward protecting the child, abuse can conceivably occur via a Facebook posting, instant messaging, even a text message, according to Love.

Legal codes continually tighten and require the reporting of incidents of child sexual abuse.

“The SBTC seminar will also cover regulations in the state of Texas,” Yoakum said. “Reporting systems and requirements have changed. There are liability issues for churches to consider. Childcare workers are under legal obligation to report incidents. Some pastors have even been jailed for failure to report incidents of child abuse.”

For more information and to register, go to sbtexas.com/children

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