A Virginia church is at the center of every congregation’s worst nightmare; One of its former volunteers is accused of sexually abusing several children he met through the church. The worst part is that these newest charges come six years after similar allegations plagued the man and the church. Although no charges were ever filed at that time, it’s an extraordinarily sad and alarming example of how background checks and child safety training could have helped prevented subsequent abuse charges.
We All Have a Responsibility
Our hearts break for the abuse survivors and their families. Children are innocent, trusting beings and it’s up to all of us to work together to implement any solutions we can to protect them. Certainly, churches and religious congregations have a major responsibility to know who they are employing or let volunteer in their programs.
Churches have become a cornerstone of productivity for many American parents and their kids – offering youth groups, Sunday schools, sports clubs, choirs, Vacation Bible Schools, to name a few church-related options. With so many parents entrusting their children to the safety and protection of the church, it’s frightening and maddening when it appears a church lets a predator slip through its ranks especially with all of the screening and child protection services reputable Consumer Reporting Agencies like Active Screening can provide.
How Did This Happen?
Let’s wind back the clock. A former member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Virginia says the church first became aware of allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of church volunteer youth group leader, Jeffrey D. Clark, 45, six years ago. There were no charges at the time.
Then in early September, Clark was arrested and charged with sexually abusing at least three children. The first child to come forward was a young boy, and after he reported the abuse to police, two other survivors reported abuse, too. Clark reportedly met all the children through his work with the church.
Police are actively encouraging children and their family members to come forward if they feel they’ve been abused by Clark, too.
Estimates show that 90% of sex offenders don’t have criminal records and therefore will go undetected without proper training of your volunteers and staff to identify signs of abuse and how to handle reporting of abuse. A child safety training course like the one provided by Protect My Ministry arms your congregation with the knowledge needed to keep our kids safe. When staff members and volunteers have an awareness of the basic characteristics of a sexual abuser, the process by which an abuser picks and prepares a child for abuse, and indicators of child sexual abuse, they are better equipped to recognize and prevent abuse in ministry programs.
One of the biggest red flags in Clark’s case is that the alleged abuse reportedly happened in his home. Anyone, and we mean ANYONE, who has taken the online child safety training course provided by Protect My Ministry would have recognized that that was odd behavior and a characteristic of child molesters. Why would a volunteer church youth leader need to spend time with church children at his home, when he has an entire church he can use for organizing youth activities?
When you take our child safety protection course you get a comprehensive overview of how child predators work, what signs to watch out for, how to create better policies to protect your church’s little ones, and the importance of background checks to weed out previous or would-be offenders. And, everyone who takes the test has to pass it. At the end of the course there is a 25-question test covering the material in the videos. The applicant must score a minimum of 70% to pass. If the applicant should fail, they will be provided with links to review the worksheets, watch the training again, and take the test again.
Make the Right Move
The screening industry has an incredible array of resources at its fingertips to help churches do a better job of protecting their people. Protect My Ministry, a nationally-accredited Consumer Reporting Agency, has consistently proven that its researchers and results are among the best in the nation. We have options specifically designed for congregations both big and small. If your church is serious about stopping predators in their tracks, give us a call today at 1-800-319-5580.