Policies and Procedures

Policies, Predators, and Penn State Football

UncategorizedJared Kennedy3 Comments

I'm a huge college football fan, and I went to bed on Saturday night thinking that I'd watched the biggest college football event of the season--the "Game of the Century" between #1 LSU and #2 Alabama.

I didn't know it then, but that was not even the biggest college football event of the week. Since Saturday, talk of the national championship race and the rumors about conference realignment which have dominated sports headlines this season have been muted by a story that is truly tragic.

Last night, the career of the winningest coach in in Division I college football history, Penn State's Joe Paterno, was brought to an end because of a sin of omission. He was fired for his silence.

You've probably heard the story already. In 2002, Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who is now the receivers coach at Penn State, observed a former assistant coach and professor emeritus, Jerry Sandusky, forcing a young boy into a sexual act in the school’s football locker room showers. McQueary reported the incident to Coach Paterno, and Coach Paterno reported it to his superiors, athletic director Tim Curley and a vice president Gary Schultz. No one reported the incident to the authorities. Sandusky, at the time, ran a non-profit organization for boys. He brought the boys onto the Penn State campus when he was a coach; he continued to do so even after his own retirement from Penn State’s coaching staff; and he continued to do so after the report reached university officials.

Sandusky's actions finally came into public view on Saturday when he was arrested and charged with 40 felony counts of sexual abuse involving young boys. Curly and Shultz were also arrested and charged with failure to report the abuse and with perjury. The Pennsylvania grand jury confirmed that both Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier also had knowledge of the 2002 report of abuse and never contacted the police. Even though those two men are not under investigation, their firing was inevitable once the facts became known. Both men had credible knowledge that  at least one young boy had been sexually abused, and neither did anything effective to stop it.

Why would anyone cover-up such an act? Why wouldn't justice be pursued to the end?  If the allegations are found to be true, how could it be that a prestigious institution like Penn State harbor a serial child sex abuser? Is there any room for compassion for Jerry Sandusky or Coach Paterno and the Penn State officials? What is keeping this from happening at our school or church? I can't speak to the motives behind the silence of the Penn State officials, but I can speak to two temptations that Christian leaders face when confronted with these types of situations:

  1. Legal requirements and policies put us off, so we're tempted to ignore them. As Christian leaders, we have a redemptive mission--one that seeks to help life and forgiveness to flourish. Policies and legal requirements put us off, because they are necessarily restrictive. They aren't inherently life-giving.  However, we must see their God-given role in exposing sin (Romans 7) and restraining evil (Romans 13). Anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect is a mandatory reporter, and they must report immediately. Neither fear of making a false accusation nor an arrogant thought that the church can do a better job investigating the incident than the authorities should lead us to disobey the law and put the children in our care at risk. "The government does not bear the sword for nothing."  As one Christian leader wrote earlier today, "Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk." At SojournKids, we use this checklist to train all of our children's ministry servants on Abuse Reporting Policies. If you don't have something like this, please feel free to adapt it for your ministry (and follow it).
  2. We're tempted to think that following our legal responsibility is enough. But following the law shouldn't keep us from acting in a redemptive way as the church. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul makes clear that those who continue to hide in sin will not enter God’s kingdom. In his list of offenders, Paul includes those who would today fit the category of “sexual offenders.” Then, he says, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” We hope that this is an accurate description of our church as well. We want Sojourn to be a place where sinners can come out of hiding and find a new identity—not in “what you were” but in “what you have become” in Christ Jesus. It is a great joy and privilege to shepherd and care for every person that the Lord sends our way. Like the prodigal son’s father, our desire is to welcome with joy men and women who turn away from their sins. Here is a policy that guides how our church responds and cares for a "registered sex offender." Developing and adopting policies like this one gives our leadership team a unified plan for helping individuals in special cases. An individual’s willingness to submit to the policy shows us whether or not their heart is repentant, teachable, and able to receive gospel care.

What happened at Penn State is a terrible tragedy, but what is to keep it from happening in your ministry? If it did, how would you minisister to the victims? How would you minister to the offender? Please take time to read through the policies I've attached above, and adapt them for your ministry setting. My prayer is that the Lord would use the tragedy at Penn State to make every ministry more prepared.

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New Handbooks and Guides for Parents

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

Every Christian parent wants to raise children who will grow up to love and trust Jesus.  Parents deliberately search for the church that provides the most opportunities for their kids to grow up in the Lord.  We want Sojourn to be that church!  Yet, as we continue to build our ministry to children, we must not neglect our homes—where children see our faith on real-time display every day.  The resources listed below are meant to explain SojournKids’ policies to parents and provide practical help for making Christian practices a regular part of your family’s life. Parent Handbooks-These are newly updated overviews of SojournKids' philosophy and children's ministry policies for each of our three campuses:

Family Worship Guide (PDF)—a practical guide about how to make Christian worship practices (the Scriptures, confession, and prayer) a part of your regular family routine.

Click Here for More Resources for Teaching Your Children To Love God…

FAQs: Protecting Your Children from Sexual Abuse

UncategorizedJared Kennedy2 Comments

Protecting children from sexual abuse is a popular topic with websites and even iPhone apps that track sexual offenders.  But it is more likely for a child to be abused by someone close to them than by a sexual offender down the street.  Any time a person is used by an older or more powerful person for their own sexual purposes, this is sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse is an offense before God, and it can damage a child's relational development.  It happens to both boys and girls.  What can you do to protect your child?  Here are four steps: 1.  Be aware of your child's environment and the patterns of others.

  • Know the families of their friends.  Get to know their babysitters, daycare workers, after school friends, and children's ministry leaders.  Know what is going on in their dating relationships.  Get to know any relatives who spend a lot of time with your kids.
  • Be aware of the patterns of others.  Be wary of individuals who are more interested in child than adult relationships.  Be wary of anyone who singles out one particular child.

2.  Talk with your children about touching rules. Respond openly to their questions by giving age-appropriate answers and using natural teaching moments.  It may also be helpful to use a book that has been designed for parents and children to talk about sex such as Stan and Brenna Jones' God's Design for Sex series.  Here are the rules that should be covered:

  • Children must be taught the difference between "good touch" and "bad touch."  Discuss this in the context of teaching your children about safety:  "Don't play with matches.  Look both ways when you cross the street.  Don't let anyone touch a part of your body that your bathing suit covers except to keep you clean and healthy."
  • If someone touches inappropriately, children should know to say "No!,"  get away, and tell a grown up
  • Most importantly, children should know that there are no secrets about touching.  "We never keep secrets about touching."

3.  Know the signs of abuse.  Check out SojournKids' training materials for suspected abuse and neglect.

  • Sudden changes in behavior such as avoiding certain individuals
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior.
  • Excessive play with his or others body parts

4.  And be ready to talk to your child when you suspect abuse has taken place:

  • Remain calm
  • Reassure the child
  • Seek out help.  Call your pastor, the police, or the Child Protective Services hot line.  In Louisville, this number is 1-502-595-4550.

Sources:  What Do I Say Now? How to Help Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse (Seattle, WA: Committee for Children, 2001). DVD.

What we ask our Children's Ministry workers to commit.

UncategorizedJared Kennedy4 Comments

At today's Germantown campus luncheon, I'll be asking our children's ministry servants to sign the following covenant.  This is what we ask our SojournKids workers to commit. Children's Ministry Servant Covenant, December 2009:

This covenant is an agreement of faithfulness between the children’s ministry of Sojourn Community Church (SojournKids) and the children’s ministry servant.  SojournKids does not consider the children’s servant to be a volunteer or lay-person.  SojournKids is seeking men and women who have a driving ambition and a confirmed gifting to nurture and teach children—nursery, toddlers, preschool, and elementary—to trust in and whole-heartedly follow Jesus Christ.

SojournKids recognizes that God has built his church community as a covenant Family with Christ as its foundation (1 Peter 2:4-12).  Children’s ministry occurs within the context of a larger covenant community where God has commanded parents to teach their children about God’s words and works (Psalm 78: 5-7).  Our children’s ministry is a catalyst for Christian families having gospel conversations together, and it provides the community context for nurturing and teaching children no matter their individual family background.  If you believe it is God's desire for you to serve children, it is our desire that you pursue this ambition by using your gifts in SojournKids (1 Peter 4:10).  Upon signing this covenant the children’s servant agrees to the following items for accountability:

1.  As a Servant, I will give my time, talent, and ability sacrificially.

  • I will faithfully serve at every SojournKids ministry class where I am scheduled, and I will send an equipped Sojourn member when I must be away. (Weekly and monthly commitments run for a six-month time period--currently through February 2010).
  • I will arrive 45 minutes before my ministry begins.
  • I will not be alone with a child.  I will always stay in public areas of the Sojourn building with children and only enter the restroom with a child when another ministry servant is present.
  • I will leave the classroom in which I serve better than I found it—recognizing that other ministry servants will be using this classroom after I leave.

2.  As a Learner, I will seek discover and develop my gifts and abilities as a children’s servant.

  • I will attend at least 2 training sessions during each commitment cycle.  The sessions will usually be Sunday afternoon luncheons or one-day events in the local Louisville area.
  • I will study any and all assigned lessons before I arrive for my ministry assignment.

3.  As a Worshiper, I will remember that Jesus is present when I serve.

  • I will meet to pray with other servants at the beginning of each service, and I will serve with an attitude of prayer.
  • I will talk about Jesus while at play, because gospel life is more than just the lessons.

4.  As a Missionary, I will plainly demonstrate the gospel to children and families at every opportunity.

  • I will teach children God’s promises and plainly speak about their need to repent from sin and trust Christ (Acts 2:38-39).
  • I will greet Sojourn families and visiting families with biblical hospitality, and I will celebrate when families come back

By signing this form you agree to the above requirements so that SojournKids can fulfill its calling to nurture and teach the children whom God has given us.

Name_____________________________________ Date__________________

A Parent Handbook for your Sojourn campus

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Every Christian parent wants to raise children who will grow up to love and trust Jesus.  Parents deliberately search for the church that provides the most opportunities for their kids to grow up in the Lord.  We want Sojourn to be that church!  Yet, as we continue to build our ministry to children, we must not neglect our homes—where children see our faith on real-time display every day. At Sojourn, we believe that the home is the front line of Christian ministry to children—not the Sunday school or public church gathering.  The practices of a Christian worship service—the Scriptures, prayer, and praise—should be present in the home as well.  After all, the most important teaching moments happen at home rather than at church.   As the church, our responsibility is to encourage and equip you in your parenting role.

We want to empower parents.  One of the ways we've done this is by putting together parent handbooks for each Sojourn campus.  The handbook has everything that you need to know about SojournKids' policies and procedures--including campus-specific emergency action plans.  If you are a parent, you'll want to take a look.  Grab a copy on Sunday or download them here:

Parent Handbook for the Germantown Campus (PDF)–an overview of SojournKids’ philosophy and childcare policies for those attending Sojourn services at the 930 Art Center.

Parent Handbook for the St. Matthews Campus (PDF)–an overview of SojournKids’ philosophy and childcare policies for those attending Sojourn services at Walden School.