He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known. -- Proverbs 10:9
Sunday school, church camp, vacation Bible school -- all a part of a child's growing up years. Each of these events can have a positive influence on a child's character. Most times, the teachers and leaders of these events are people you know and see on a weekly basis -- they are people you and your children trust.
Now, consider this story: "Ed begins attending First Church. After a few weeks he volunteers to work with the youth group. Church staff members do not know Ed but they are delighted to have another worker. He is put to work immediately. The youth group has an overnight activity a few months later. Following the activity, two minors report they were sexually molested by Ed. The parents of one of the minors contact an attorney and a $3 million lawsuit is brought against Ed, the church and the church board. The parents claim the church acted negligently by not properly screening and supervising Ed."
This story is found in a handbook developed by Salem resident Buzz Busby. A handbook that church leaders are now using to help keep young people in their congregation safe from sexual predators.
Busby, who is a member of Salem First Baptist Church, said it all started when his pastor, John Hodges, asked him to come up with a simplified plan they could initiate in their church.
"I told John, 'you've got to be kidding,'" Busby said. "The plan I was to simplify was 3-inches thick. But, I dug-in. It took me nine months but we now have a plan that is easy to understand and implement."
The plan covers procedures and offers guidelines for making a church of any size safe from sexual predators. The plan has been put into effect at the Salem First Baptist Church, the Viola Assembly of God, and in churches in Jonesboro, Jacksonville and Little Rock.
"It's sad that the world has come to this," Busby said. "But, churches need to be aware of how easily a child molester can become a part of their congregation and take steps to keep these predators away from children."
Parents fear the unknown molester, but according to the American Medical Association, a child is much more likely to be abused by someone he or she knows. An abuser can be anybody caring for a child: a parent or other relative, a baby-sitter, a teacher, a neighbor or a friend.
"This plan not only helps protect children, it protects the church as a whole," Busby said. "When an incident takes place in a church it tears the church apart. In some cases, it's the end of that congregation."
The plan helps church leaders implement a program that in part helps people recognize child abuse; reduces a church's legal vulnerability; establishes a prevention plan; shows how to screen church workers; and how to report and respond to allegations of abuse.
"I will go anywhere to explain this plan to any church," Busby said. "If this plan prevents one molester from abusing a child it is worth everything. Churches everywhere need to send the message that they're watching; that they have a program in place to help keep predators away from their children."
Busby says this plan is not just for churches with a large congregation. "This is something every size church needs to think about," he said. "Our world has changed and churches have to recognize the changes and do everything possible to protect our children."
For more information about this plan, church leaders can contact Busby at 895-2101 or through Salem First Baptist Church at 895-2330.