One of my favorite pastimes after a long day of work is to sit and watch just about any sport. During each season of professional sports, you’ll find me in the evenings reading and enjoying any one of my favorite Atlanta-based teams working together to defeat their opponents on any given night. One of my favorite things about watching these sports is to follow how the players grow to find ways to work together over the course of a season, on offense and defense, in order to accomplish their goal. In an age of blockbuster trades and ever-increasing salaries for the most talented players, one might think that individual talent is the most valuable thing for a team. But I think Michael Jordan, arguably the most talented player to ever play professional sports, has been proven right: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
This is just as true in the sports world as it is in the world of ministry. Anyone with more than a few weeks of ministry experience will tell you that they can’t do it alone. Pastors need a team of people around them to help lead and disciple. Worship leaders need a team of musicians and A/V workers to ensure the worship service runs smoothly and effectively. School Principals need a team of administrators and teachers to help the school accomplish their mission of educating and forming the next generation. Here at ECAP, we believe that ministry is a team sport. And this is true for your child safety efforts as well.
In this article, we want to help you understand the need for a team approach when it comes to child safety. In a future article, we’ll discuss a little more about who should be on your Child Safety Team, the mission of the Child Safety Team and how they can accomplish it.
What is a Child Safety Team?
A Child Safety Team (CST) is a team of individuals within your organization devoted to providing a safe ministry environment. They work together to develop, implement, maintain, and refine your ministry’s Child Protection Policies (CPP). We’ll talk more in the next article about each of these functions. For now, we’re just going to cover the question, Why do we need a Child Safety Team?
- Follows the Biblical Model
When you read through the book of Acts and the epistles, one thing becomes extremely apparent: the early church’s leaders are almost never alone! In the early chapters, Peter is almost always accompanied by John. Later on, Paul is always picking up disciples to go with him on his missionary journeys. In Acts 20, Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian elders is to “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). As a team, they are to work together to guard against the fierce wolves who will seek to draw away disciples. In ministry, leaders work together with other leaders to do the work of ministry.
Furthermore, ministry leaders are commanded to engage those under leadership in the work of ministry. In Ephesians 4:11, pastors and overseers are told that their job is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” What if we didn’t measure ministry success by the smoothness of our programs or the number of attenders, but by asking the question, “Did we equip and engage other believers in the work of ministry?” Paul also reminded the Corinthian church that they are a body dependent on one another and the Spirit who empowers them: “All these [gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:11-12). Each member of your ministry has something to bring to the table, and a ministry of child safety is a great way to help the people in your organization exercise their gifts for the good of the ministry.
2. Brings Diverse Perspectives
Maybe you’ve been tasked with developing a Child Protection Policy, and you’re thinking, “Uh, they didn’t teach me about this in seminary. I don’t even know where to start!” Appointing a devoted Child Safety Team means that you don’t have to handle this complex topic alone. The more informed perspectives you can bring to the table, you will miss fewer blind spots, and the more effective your child safety measures will be.
It is very likely that you will have people in your ministry who have backgrounds, skills, and experiences that can really help you develop and maintain your CPP. Maybe you have someone with a law enforcement or investigations background. They can be really helpful to help you assess risks to children in your ministry. Or maybe you have someone in your organization with a background in law or human resources? These individuals could be indispensable in writing policies that are clear and implementable. You also have access to another group who will care a lot about the safety of the children in your ministry: parents. Parents will naturally be invested in the safety of their children, and it’s likely that there are many sharp-eyed moms and dads who can help you identify risks and set boundaries to protect the children in your ministry.
3. Encourages Long-Term Maintenance
How many times have you tried to start new initiatives, programs, or set a new vision for your ministry? It can be very difficult to implement changes in philosophy, culture, or ethos in your ministry over time. It’s always going to be an uphill battle, since you are working against not only potential active resistance, but also the passive resistance of members who like things the way they are. This is an inevitable part of leadership, whether you’re new to the ministry or you want to see your ministry make changes.
Although implementing change takes a lot more than this, one simple strategy is to invite a group of people to buy in and become the pioneers and advocates for the change. This is true of child safety as well. We encourage ministry leaders to think of child safety almost like a new ministry program. If you’re a school administrator and you want to partner with your local community to meet needs, you’re going to have to devote some resources to see that new program come to fruition. That new program will need someone to oversee it and take ownership of it. It will probably need a budget line item, and a plan to raise or allocate funds for it. You’ll need a group of Volunteers to help make that program happen, and you’ll need to train them on how to spread the word about this new initiative. Your Child Safety Team is going to be that group of people advocating for this new ministry initiative. By appointing a team to oversee this, you’ll demonstrate legitimacy to other stakeholders, communicating, “We’re in this for the long haul.”
Additionally, appointing a CST reduces the risk of child safety being pushed to the margins through the different stages in the life cycle of a ministry. Personnel comes and goes. Organizations go through thin times where certain things need to be prioritized and other things are left for another day. Instituting the CST means you have a team of people who care about this topic, and who want to see a ministry of child safety continue through the years of your ministry.
4. Spreads the Work Around
Another reason you should appoint a Child Safety Team devoted to developing and maintaining your Child Protection Policy is the simple fact that you can help one another share the load. In our experience so many ministries get bogged down as one person attempts to juggle the responsibility of developing these policies alongside their regular ministry responsibilities. There are 73 Indicators of ECAP’s Child Safety Standards. If one person tackled one a week, it would take them about a year and a half to write policies that cover each Indicator, not to mention the additional work of implementation and training that goes along with them. What if, instead, you asked your CST to meet with you once a month for 6 months, with each meeting devoted to one section of our Standards, and you asked them to devote 5 hours during that month to coming up with ideas to comply with each Indicator? This way, you’re spreading the work around and collaborating to find creative solutions, and people are devoting only about an hour a week to helping develop your CPP?
5. Increases Awareness Around the Organization
One last reason why you should appoint a Child Safety Team is because this group of people will help you increase awareness about the problem of abuse and what your ministry is doing to combat it. You, ministry leader, can’t be everywhere at once. Time is limited, and you can only talk to so many people. What if you multiplied your time and influence by inviting a group of people to help you implement these changes in your organization?
Many people still don’t understand the problem of abuse in our society. Maybe they still believe myths like: It couldn’t happen in our ministry. Strangers are the main ones we need to worry about. I could recognize an abuse victim if I saw one. Delegating these responsibilities and asking a team to consider the problem of abuse will help to dispel these myths within your organization as you equip them with what we know about abusers and their victims. As your team learns about this topic, this will also help to create a culture of compassion and care. Many survivors of childhood abuse never told someone about their abuse because they didn’t think they would be believed by an adult. The members of your Child Safety Team will instead be on the lookout for indicators of abuse, and they will be equipped to welcome any difficult conversations that need to happen with the kids in your ministry.
Don’t be surprised if survivors of abuse come forward as you begin appointing team members and increasing awareness about this problem. Approximately 25% of any given organization is made up of sexual abuse survivors, so you may have some children as well as adults come forward when you start raising awareness about this issue. As sad as it is, shedding light on this topic will give you some great opportunities to shepherd hurting people and get them the help they need.
In this article we’ve covered 5 reasons why you should appoint a Child Safety Team to help you develop, implement, maintain, and refine your Child Protection Policy. Our next article will cover who should make up your CST, the mission of the CST, and how to equip and mobilize your CST.