How can we protect children in Sabbath School when we’re so short of staff?
19 July 2021 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
In the safety training mandated by the denomination for working with and protecting children, there is a rule that we are to have more than one adult in the room during a children’s Sabbath School class.
Yet in our little church, that’s not easy. Sometimes it’s hard to find a second adult. Our pastor has said not to worry about it as long as we keep the door open. I’m not sure that’s enough. What should I do to make it safe for the children and me?
By the way, we’re not alone: I’ve been to other small churches where there is only one adult in a class with young children.
Signed, Trying to be safe
Small churches are often short of the resources needed to do all that they need to do. The denomination’s training about protecting our children is helpful, but it does have some standards that are difficult to implement in real-life situations.
It is important, however, to take as many precautions as possible to maintain those standards. We adults instinctively feel that the church is a safe place—after all, we feel safe there! Surely our kids are safe! But statistics say that 90% of abusers are known to the abused child. That means it is not out in the streets, but in our homes, churches, schools and other familiar places where our children are most vulnerable!
Obviously, trying to have two adults in the room is the best plan. And we should do all we can to make that happen. If it becomes impossible, having the door open and more than one child in the room is the next best. But here’s another idea: have an adult assigned to walk around to the Sabbath School rooms poking their heads into the open doors to say hello to the class every 10-20 minutes. That provides one more level of protection for everyone.
And, by the way, don’t neglect the individual background checks for adults who work with children. These checks are even more important in small churches than in large ones, because where there are fewer people to call upon, it’s tempting to take any willing volunteer. If a person refuses to get the background check, keep an eye on them.
It can be tempting to throw up our hands and say, “It’s too hard!” But remember the stakes. No matter how safe you and I feel, our children are vulnerable, and all it takes is one pedophile in our midst—and it may be someone you wouldn’t ever expect! Protecting them has to be our top priority even if it is difficult to do in a real-life setting. The thing we are trying to avoid is ever having a child alone one-on-one with an adult.
And even if you’re absolutely not a pedophile—even if you have nothing but the best of intentions for the children’s spiritual nurture—you should try to maintain those standards just to be sure that no can ever accuse you unjustly.
I salute you for your efforts. We will never see the numbers get better without people like you who care enough to do the inconvenient or difficult things necessary to protect our children. Thank you!
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without identification of the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.