FORT WORTH, Texas. (BP) – MinistrySafe, a non-profit organization focused on offering training to churches to prevent sexual abuse, is helping develop training on how the abuse prevention landscape has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The non-profit offers churches and other organizations that work with children a five-step safety program designed to protect children from abuse and create a safe environment for ministry.
Gregory Love, co-founder of MinistrySafe, said the pandemic brought about a lot of change for churches.
“Changes in our culture as a result of the pandemic have forced us to adapt,” Love said. “It has changed some of the fundamentals of how we do ministry, where we do ministry and what technology we are using to do ministry or education.”
MinistrySafe’s training is used by many Southern Baptist churches. A number of churches and state Baptist conventions are planning events in partnership with the organization to address general abuse prevention as well as changes in prevention methods brought about by COVID-19.
The Village Church in Texas will be hosting abuse prevention training events over the next few weeks with the help of MinistrySafe at both its Flower Mound campus (Sept. 30) and their Denton campus (Oct. 10).
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board will partner with MinistrySafe to hold a child protection workshop in Duluth, Ga., on Oct. 13, and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions is hosting an online webinar related specifically to the COVID-related changes in the abuse prevention landscape on Oct. 5.
A link to register for the Alabama Baptist Mission Board’s webinar can be found here.
Love will be speaking at the Alabama webinar, and said he is grateful for the state’s continued partnership.
During the training he will address two specific areas of concern that the pandemic brought about. Many of the current risks regarding sexual abuse have resulted from children spending more time at home and more time using technology, he said.
It’s important for ministries to know the pros and cons that come with specific technology and the use of certain apps, such as Snapchat, online gaming and other social media apps, Love said.
Many of these apps are great for communicating with students remotely, but Love highlighted the danger than can come with certain apps and games as they can give predators the opportunity to private message students or communicate in ways that are not out in the open.
In light of kids spending more time at home, Love said “most children are victimized in their core world,” that is, by a relative or someone they know.
Because a lot of schooling and church ministry has taken place online over the past 18 months, Love said children have not been able to spend time around other adults outside of their homes, who are often the ones to notice the first signs abuse is taking place.
These new problems are areas Love said churches must be aware of to know how to respond appropriately.
“The problem (of sexual abuse) is ongoing but now has new challenges, and one of those challenges relates to how predators have adapted to the changes faster than we’ve adapted in prevention,” Love said. “We just can’t believe that safety is important until there’s a pandemic, we need to understand that we modify things given our circumstances.
“If we’re going to modify our programs, then we need to know how to address the risks that now exist with those programs. Find out which of these applications you are using and then find out what are the weaknesses of these applications, and if the risks outweigh the benefits of the communication offered.”
Love said MinistrySafe’s purpose is working with different churches and organizations to explain how these new abuse challenges should affect their prevention training, their insurance information and how to provide an overall safe environment for children. The non-profit is also working on updating its video training to include topics related to changes resulting from COVID-19.
He expressed gratitude for churches trying to stay informed and prepared.
“We’ll break down these concepts and then put it right in front of them to let them know exactly what that means to you and what you do about it,” Love said. “Relationship is the foundation of discipleship, and the church is supposed to be the safest place on the planet, but we’re never going to accidentally get this (abuse prevention) right.
“I appreciate the Alabama Baptist Convention and many other groups that they would trust us to be able to unpack this information and I’m glad they’ve made it a priority.”