How should we respond when we have an offender in church ?

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Judith Layzell is one of our trainers and she volunteers for Christian Safeguarding Services. Judith has written a helpful article on how we should respond when we have an offender in church. Her professional background was in the Probation Service.

How do we respond if we have an offender in our church?

First of all, remember that it is not only people with convictions who might pose a risk to others.  Good safeguarding policies and practices are essential to reduce the risk to everyone, all the time.

However, if you know that someone with a criminal conviction for some sort of abuse is part of your congregation, there are some general guidelines.

Do:

  • Seek and act on specific advice from your safeguarding support service – e.g. Christian Safeguarding Services– to ensure you are doing all in your power to keep everyone safe.
  • Be ready to work openly with Police and Probation Officers.  Their concern is to help someone be integrated into the community while reducing the risk of reoffending as much as possible.  They will want to work with you.
  • Carry out specific and detailed risk assessments about the person’s activities.
  • Implement the detail of those risk assessments consistently without letting them slide.
  • Remember that organisations, as well as individuals, can be groomed into accepting situations and activities which on face value they would not think are reasonable.  So remain alert.
  • Check out the situation with your support service from time to time, to ensure it is being managed well and to obtain support and accountability for yourself.

Do not:

  • Try to manage the situation yourselves without advice.  People with experience and wisdom are ready to help you.
  • Be afraid to seek advice or help even if you been trying to manage alone until now.
  • Assume that because someone has repented, they are immune from further temptation or sin.  We all have issues we struggle with.  If I have a problem with eating too many biscuits, it is not fair to me to put me in charge of church refreshments.  So, in order to protect everyone, do not put temptation in anyone’s way.
  • Discuss someone’s history widely.  Only the people who need to know, need to know.  This will probably only be your safeguarding team and anyone involved in overseeing the implementation of the risk assessment.  It is not acceptable to share the situation widely for prayer, either within or outside your own congregation.

For our model formal contacts and risk assessment templates please go here

Posted in: Blog
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