First Baptist Church, Huntsville, AL
Thursday, April 24, 2014

Childhood & Student Ministries Safekeeping Policies of FBC

As a part of our ongoing effort to provide a loving and safe church environment for preschoolers, children, and youth, the members of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, in business session on Wednesday, March 11, 1999, formally adopted a document entitled, The Child and Youth Protection Policies and Procedures.  The following paragraphs address three separate areas of concern.

  1. A formal process that will be used to screen all persons who work with preschoolers, children, and youth in our church.
  2. Specific procedures to be used by volunteers in their work with preschoolers, children, and youth.
  3. Workers’ obligations related to reporting suspected cases of abuse.
In accordance with these policies and procedures, all persons working with preschoolers, children, and youth must have: 
  1. Attended a training event designed to overview these policies and procedures
  2. Completed an online application with our background screening service (online form). To learn more about the company we use for background screening services and their data security, please click here.)
  3. Cleared the screening process, and
  4. Received notice of official approval for volunteer service

Background Information

First Baptist Church? In this unsafe world, reports of abuse of children and youth are on the rise, even in agencies and institutions which were once considered immune from such abuse.  Unfortunately, local churches are not excluded from accusations of and incidences of child abuse. Rather, the open, trusting atmosphere of a church environment can make it a prime target area for potential abuse situations.

Our Commitment at First Baptist, Huntsville... First Baptist Church, Huntsville, is committed to the task of sharing the Gospel message with preschoolers, children, youth, and their families.  When we gather for fellowship, study, and worship, our goal is to create a loving and caring environment in which these preschoolers, children, and youth can become the persons that God has called them to be- spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

To that end, the physical and emotional safety and well-being of each preschooler, child, and youth is of utmost importance to the leaders of our congregation.  Both ministerial staff and volunteer staff acknowledge our responsibility to, as best we can, protect preschoolers, children, and youth while they are involved in church activities.  In a world that is often unsafe for young people, we strive to create a “sanctuary” here at church.

Therefore, based on our strong commitment to provide a church environment for preschoolers, children and youth that is loving and safe, our church has developed the following policies and procedures.

Our attention to these policies and procedures will:

  1. First and foremost, safeguard our preschoolers, children, and youth from potentially abusive situations while they are involved in church activities.
  2. Second, protect church staff volunteer workers from unfounded allegations of child abuse.
  3. And finally, limit the extent of our church’s legal risk and liability due to child abuse issues.

Why are churches in general particularly susceptible to accusations of and incidences of child abuse?

Local congregations have unique characteristics that can make them susceptible to accusations of and incidents of child abuse.  These characteristics include:

  • A High Level of Inherent Trust- Local churches tend to be trusting and unsuspecting institutions.  Parents of preschoolers, children, and youth assume that the leaders of various church organizations are trustworthy, Christian persons.
  • The Need for Numerous Volunteers- Local churches depend on volunteers to do the work of the ministry.  Each week, literally thousands of volunteers work with preschoolers, children, and youth in local churches.  Most local congregations struggle to enlist enough volunteer leaders for preschool, children, and youth programs
  • High Turnover Among Volunteers- Since turnover among workers in some churches is sometimes high, any willing volunteer can provide welcome relief, often with no questions asked concerning that individual’s background and qualifications.
  • Lack of Screening- In most churches, no formal volunteer screening process is in place.  Therefore, very little may be known about a person before that person is placed in a position with children or youth.
  • Access- Unfortunately, child molesters are attracted to agencies and institutions in which they have immediate access to potential victims in an atmosphere in an atmosphere of trust, such as in the church.
  • Opportunity- Local churches provide ample opportunities for unsupervised, close personal contact between adults and children.  This risk increases dramatically during overnight activities or off campus activities.

What is Child Sexual Abuse?

The precise legal definition of child sexual abuse or molestation differs in each state.  In general, it includes any form of sexual contact or exploitation in which a minor is being used for sexual stimulation of the perpetrator.  Child sexual abuse is a criminal act prohibited by various statutes within the Code of Alabama set forth in sections 13A-6-60 through 13A-6-70.

Child sexual abuse may be violent or nonviolent.  All such activity is an exploitation of a child’s vulnerability and powerlessness, in which the perpetrator is fully responsible for his or her actions.  Such conduct is criminal behavior that involves children in sexual behaviors for which they are not personally, socially, or developmentally ready.  Child sexual abuse may include behavior that involves inappropriate touching and non-touching aspects.

Child sexual abuse occurs in all demographic, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious groups.  Strangers account for less than twenty percent of the abusers.  In fact, estimates indicate that when a known assailant commits the abuse, most of the time it is a trusted adult who misuses his or her authority over the child.  Scientific data indicates that pedophiles (persons who sexual molest a pre-adolescent child)  usually have many victims over a lifetime.