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Before it Happens

The process of designing a policy is as essential as the product itself. The most important question is, "Do you have the energy and commitment to work through these issues before a crisis?" Here are a few considerations as you compose your policy:

Definitions. Church bylaws should make a clear statement against abuse and for a healthy worship environment. For example: "Worship of God requires openness, trust, intimacy, vulnerability, and a safe, supportive community. Abuse and harassment are, therefore, violations of the faith shared by this congregation. Accordingly, the congregation will maintain official policies and procedures that assure prevention. … " State clearly what behaviors are inappropriate.

Personnel policies. Maintain a personnel manual in the church office to describe the recruiting, screening, and selecting of volunteer and paid staff. The application and reference check should explore accusations of sexual abuse. One church's policy calls for "a signed covenant ...

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