Saturday, January 27, 2018

What the Gymnasts Teach/Remind Us

As I've listened to the news coverage of the gymnasts testifying against the doctors who abused them, I thought, I hope our churches are listening--and our schools, and our sports teams, and any other institutions that we tend to trust when we turn our children over to their care.

One of the hardest writing projects I ever undertook was writing the safe space policy that our insurance requires of my church.  We had never had such a thing, but I thought, how hard can it be?

The actual writing of it wasn't hard, but the researching was horrible.  I read story after story of things that can go terribly wrong in a church that is too trusting--all those shattered lives!

The fixes are fairly simple--all doors must have windows, and they should remain open unless there's a very good reason to close them.  No adult should ever--EVER--be alone with a child.

In fact, if we could all enact that rule, we'd eliminate a lot of opportunities for abuse.

Our insurance policy also requires a background check for all church members who work with children--and in our church, that's almost everybody, since we're a small church.  But we don't do as much with traditional Sunday school as other churches, so it's mainly our nursery workers who need the background check.

As we were instituting these changes, we got some push back from older members.  I understand that we wish we could trust everyone.  We want to believe that our fellow church members wouldn't do such a thing as invade little children with their body parts.

Sadly, we can't.

If we're members of churches that seem a bit careless when it comes to the safety of children, this crisis in USA Gymnastics gives us a chance to discuss the safety of children and how we can do our jobs better.

The good news:  it often doesn't take much.  Even if we can't put windows in every door, we can make sure that adults are never alone with children.  If new members volunteer to work with children, we can pair them with seasoned members.  We can make sure that groups aren't at church all alone.  We can talk to parents and get them to assist with this process.

Let us not neglect this important work.  It may make us uncomfortable, but let us do it anyway.

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