Safe Church Guidelines

by Loralee Boe

The situation:

You have children in every classroom and everything is humming along smoothly. Wait, there is a small group of parents gathered and whispering. Your “problem” radar goes off and you greet them with a smile. “Anything I can do?”

Three voices start talking at the same time…..
“There is a sexual deviant in church service”
“I recognize him from the news”
“What are you going to do about it?

 

Action plan:

When this did happen at our church we had a policy in place and implemented it immediately. I am forever grateful for the law enforcement friends who helped formulate it.

After personally identifying the “just out of prison” gentleman, I spoke with him after service in the presence of one of our Elders. This former elementary teacher from our community claimed to have given his life to the Lord while incarcerated and wanted to attend our church. We set up a meeting to which our “Guidelines” could be discussed.

 

The Guidelines are as follows:

 

Disclaimer
Before you implement any policy related to this topic, consult with your legal counsel to obtain final approval from your attorney, as these topics are very delicate situations and to avoid the possibility of violating any person’s civil or legal rights.

 

– Safe Church Guidelines –
Response to Convicted Sexual Offenders

 

Administration

This policy serves as a guideline to provide a framework that addresses Crossroads Christain Church’s response to convicted sexual offenders who visit, attend, become members, or who are already members of Crossroads Christain Church. The Elders of Crossroads Christian Church may modify these guidelines, on a case-by-case basis, to fulfill the intent of these guidelines, based on each unique situation encountered. To this end, enforcement of these guidelines will be at the authority of the Church Elders.

 

Purpose

Crossroads Christian Church (hereafter after, CCC) is committed to creating and maintaining programs, services, facilities, and a church community in which employees, volunteers, members, attendees, and any other persons served by CCC, can worship and work together in a safe atmosphere, free from acts committed by convicted sexual offenders. It is the intention of CCC to take action to prevent and correct behavior that is contrary to these guidelines, and as necessary, to discipline, or cause to report and/or arrest those persons who violate these guidelines.

 

Crossroads Christian Church Role

CCC recognizes that we can play a substantial role in assisting convicted sexual offenders return to society and rebuild their lives. As offenders work towards rebuilding their lives, restoring relationships, and overcoming old behaviors, CCC will encourage the offenders’ much needed support, and assist them with their commitment to faith through a customized approach that addresses individual situations.

 

CCC is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment in which people of all ages can learn about and experience God’s love, as well as a place of healing and change for offenders. If a convicted sexual offender is violating these guidelines and expectations, they may be excluded from attending CCC.

 

Terminology and Situational Differences

CCC recognizes that the term “sexual offender” covers a wide range of individuals. Therefore, each type of offender presents a different level of risk for committing new offenses, and each situation is unique. Some offenders will be truly repentant and CCC can play a valuable role in encouraging their faith commitment as they work to conquer old behaviors and urges. Other offenders, unfortunately, may still seek opportunities to approach children or other potentially vulnerable people.

 

Accountability Procedures

For the protection of employees, volunteers, members, attendees, children, and other potentially vulnerable people, convicted sexual offenders must meet with church staff or CCC Elders before an affiliation with CCC can be established. The purpose of these meetings is for the protection of CCC as well as that of the offenders.

 

To maximize accountability, CCC may interact with the following agencies, including, but not limited to:

  • Parole
  • Probation
  • Social Workers
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • Psychologists
  • Therapists

 

Accountability Partnership

In order to shield the offender from temptation and reduce the chances for further offenses while at CCC or Church-sponsored events, an Accountability Partner may be assigned to offenders.

 

Accountability Partners should be trained volunteers who can monitor the offenders while on CCC property or attending CCC-sponsored events. The Accountability Partner may be a CCC staff member, CCC Elder, law enforcement (off duty or retired), or other person designated by CCC Elders to act in this role. The Accountability Partner position may be rotated. To avoid miscommunication regarding Accountability Partners’ assignments (i.e. “I thought it was Bill’s turn this week.”), a system should be put in place by the CCC Elders, CCC staff members, or their designee.

 

The Accountability Partner should have visual awareness of the offender when on CCC property or at church-sponsored events. Accountability Partners should discretely escort offenders away from areas where their access could cause the offender temptation.

 

Offender Covenant
In order to provide support for offenders’ rehabilitation and recovery, yet hold them accountable and aid in the assessment of potential for re-offending, CCC may offer the offender a Covenant. This Covenant is designed to help offenders avoid situations that could provide opportunities to further offend. The Covenant may include, but is not limited to, the following:

 

    • Avoid all contact with children (under 18 years of age), or other vulnerable people, on church property or at church-sponsored events
    • Provide copies of offenders’ conditions of probation or parole to CCC Elders or CCC staff

 

    • A prohibition to the nursery and children’s/youth ministry areas
    • Permission to convey information to others about the offenders’ conviction, if the church believes it is necessary for protection of children or other vulnerable people

 

    • Permission to contact and collaborate with community agencies and staff such as, but not limited to, probation/parole officers, counselors, psychologists, police officers, and others assigned to work with rehabilitation for status reports to identify whether or not CCC should allow the offenders to participate, and to what extent
    • Agreement to attend ongoing counseling with CCC staff or CCC Elders, and/or outside professional doctors, counselors or therapists

 

If an offender fails to comply with the terms of their Covenant, the offender may no longer be permitted to attend CCC. If an offender disagrees with the Covenant terms, the offender can be denied access to CCC and/or church-sponsored activities.

 

Ongoing Counseling Sessions

If it is necessary, CCC may offer or mandate appropriate on-going guidance counseling. This counseling may be conducted by pastoral staff or with an outside professional counselor. Ongoing counseling may include, but is not limited to, obtaining updated status of offenders’ recovery and assessment of potential risks. Regular written progress reports may be requested by CCC Staff, CCC Elders, or their designee.

 

Communication with Church Membership

Under the discretion of the CCC Elders and CCC Staff, information related to these Safety Guidelines may be communicated to others. Prior to any disclosure of information regarding specific offenders, the following should be considered:

  • Consult legal counsel to:
    • Ensure that offenders’ “rights to privacy” are not violated
    • Ensure victims’ “rights to privacy” are not violated
    • Research legal requirements of California State Law
  • Determine who has a “Need to Know / Right to Know” regarding the disclosure of information.
  • Pastors, Elders, Youth Ministers, Staff and others, such as law enforcement (off duty or retired), should be made aware that an offender is participating in church activities.
    • Disclose that the offender has agreed to a Covenant with CCC that sets limitations on participation, establishes an Accountability Partner for oversight, and precludes any contact with children, or other vulnerable people.
  • Limit communication to factual statements such as information supported by actual terms of parole or probation.
  • Be respectful, considerate and circumspect
    • Avoid slandering or defaming offenders
    • Avoid speculation about what might have happened in the past
    • Avoid predicting the future
  • Be aware that CCC members not originally informed of a specific situation may eventually learn of it.
    • Know in advance how to respond
    • Remember “Need to Know / Right to Know”

 

Resource

The following is a public website for searches regarding convicted sexual offenders:
United States Department of Justice – Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website

http://www.nsopr.gov/

 

Loralee has experience as the Children’s Minister for Crossroads Christian Church and Christian Camping for almost 20 years. She has presented at ACSI, AWANA Conferences, NAECE and other venues. Having a background in child psychology, her passion for helping others grow in their own ministries is evident in her teaching and mentoring of others.

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