Proactive protection key for church staff and members

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As the #MeToo movement sweeps the country bringing evil acts to light, church leaders need to be aware that the Church is not immune. Harassment and abuse can be devastating to a congregation and can ruin marriages, families and ministries. Churches which are not careful can either facilitate such abuse or leave themselves open to dubious accusations.

To help leaders understand the dangers and craft policies and guidelines to protect their churches and people, Attorney Gary Yeldell, founding member of Wise Counsel Legal Services in Keystone Heights, has been speaking to Florida Baptist church leaders. He said it’s important for ministry leaders to understand how they can protect themselves, their members and their reputations.

“Whether the allegations are true or false, the church and the Gospel take a hit,” he told a gathering of ministry leaders from the Florida Baptist Association and the surrounding area.

Yeldell encouraged the crowd to have guidelines in place before something happens so there’s no question as to how to proceed. Having policies that lay out appropriate interactions – between staff members, between staff and church members and between church members – is one of the most effective ways for churches to protect themselves.

“A written policy establishes a proper dynamic for your church, sets clear guidelines and communicates to the membership that the church takes these matters seriously,” he said.

One of the best things a church can do, and in Yeldell’s opinion is a must, is be transparent about policies and any investigation that may be required after an accusation is made.

“An accusation does not equal guilt, but it needs to be investigated,” he said. “There must be a good faith effort to get to the truth – and a willingness to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Yeldell said there’s not a one-size-fits-all policy that a church can adopt. Church leaders need to craft guidelines that both fit their context and they are willing to enforce. By taking proactive steps now, churches may save a lot of heartache later. It’s not only our congregations who are watching but our communities are too.

“Unfortunately, our society has come to expect churches to try and sweep things under the rug. So, we have to go above and beyond to show that is simply not the case,” he said. “We need to be honest about guilt and innocence and be ready to take whatever action is appropriate.”

To find out more about creating policies for safety, contact Gary Yeldell by visiting his website.

By Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Convention, December 20, 2018

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