GraceLife’s statement on sexual abuse and prevention.
Reports of sexual abuse and exploitation within the Southern Baptist Convention and other Christian organizations have caused us great sorrow and concern. We grieve deeply with those who have been abused and taken advantage of by those claiming to be followers of Christ. We also mourn the lasting affront this brings to the testimony of the Gospel and the witness to our Savior.
Here at GraceLife we have always taken seriously our responsibility to protect those within our care. In the event that you have been impacted by the heartache of abuse, we want to assure you that there is hope for healing. We have staff available as well as a variety of counseling options that would be beneficial to you. If you find yourself or someone you love in such a situation, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
For the last several years we have taken a number of steps to prevent the abuse and neglect of children and students (birth – 18 years) in our care. Some of these include:
- KidCheck – Each Sunday morning and evening, parents must check their preschoolers in for Life Groups and worship using one of our secure check-in stations. This system allows only responsible parties to drop off and pick up children under our care during Sunday activities.
- Background Checks – Prior to hiring, background checks are typically performed on prospective staff members and adult volunteers working with children and students in Sunday and Wednesday worship/ministry settings. This system is currently being adjusted to include all adult volunteers across all areas of Children’s and Student ministry.
- Vetting Volunteers – All volunteers working with children and students are vetted by GraceLife staff and ministry leaders. Leadership and teaching roles are given only to church members who have proven themselves to be faithful and trustworthy. Secondary and non-teaching roles are given on occasion to non-members who are well-known to our staff.
- Security Cameras – We use an extensive network of security cameras throughout our facility both inside and out. Camera feeds are recorded 24/7 and allow for both onsite and remote monitoring.
- Security Teams – We have a security team (led and staffed by several current and former law enforcement officers) present during Sunday morning and evening activities and other events as needed. Wednesday evening activities are also monitored by security personnel.
- Classrooms – To provide a safe atmosphere in our classrooms, all classroom doors are equipped with a window and are available for observation during all ministry events.
- Local Reporting to Authorities – We are encouraged that Virginia Senate Bill 1257 (enacted 02/20/2019; effective date 07/01/2019) adds churches and ministers to the mandatory abuse and neglect reporting requirements by state law. Our staff members and all others who oversee Children’s and Student ministry at GraceLife will receive appropriate training concerning all aspects of this mandatory reporting status.
Our resolve has strengthened to protect every person who participates in any activity that we host or sponsor. We are working toward the following measures:
- A review of our employee manual and guidelines to make any appropriate and needed updates.
- A review of our abuse and neglect policies, making appropriate changes, which will be published in written and digital form.
- Additional training for our staff and other ministry leaders to help identify and prevent abuse and neglect.
- Opportunities to partner with other churches to network and provide accountability for each other in cases of abuse and neglect involving staff or volunteer leaders.
- Collaboration with our state convention (SBCV) along with the Southern Baptist Convention to strengthen our own policies and to help encourage positive changes within these networks to protect all those who are vulnerable.
The Scripture makes abundantly clear the high value our Lord places upon the care and protection of children: “Whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me. But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me–it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.” (Matthew 18:5-7)
Our heart is to be diligent and purposeful in following His instruction and admonition.
We are grateful for how God has faithfully watched over and protected our congregation and leaders in these and other areas. We, your staff pastors, consider it a high privilege and responsibility to partner with Him in shepherding this flock. We trust that you will join with us in a renewed commitment to pray and labor for the well-being of every individual who is impacted by the many ministries of GraceLife, both here and around the world.
Pastors Tim, Sean, Dave and Jonathan