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Looking for advice on a church situation

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by Burden Bearer, Feb 5, 2009.

  1. Burden Bearer

    Burden Bearer New Member

    Feb 4, 2009
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    I am looking for advice on an particular ministry issue, especially from pastors. I am in the process of possibly accepting the responsibilities as pastor of a small rural church. Attendance is 30-35 and the town population is about 17,000. The church has only had two pastors in is 20+ years of existence. Here's what I would like advice on. The previous pastor of 10 years was arrested, and confessed, to child sexual molestation charges(the children did not attend the church). This happened approximately 2 months ago. Naturally it was all over the newspapers and the state TV stations. Here's my question: Is it a good or bad idea to change the name of the church? Also, what other measures would you suggest to erase any negative reputation that may be reflected upon the church?

    Thank your sincerely for your help.
  2. Major B

    Major B <img src=/6069.jpg>

    May 6, 2003
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    I don't know what good a name change would do--in a small town, everyone knows about everything anyway. There are some things you can do, and you will also want to know some things.

    Things you can do--

    1. Reach out to the local population.

    2. Reach out to the victims' families.

    3. Employ a very strict policy that you are never alone with a child in the same room.

    4. Pray for the victims and the perpetrator, and his family, which had probably been destroyed by this..

    Things I would like to know if I was in your shoes.

    1. Did anyone in the church have an inkling of this situation before it came out? Was there an attempted cover-up? Lay it out before the congregation that if there is anything else to tell, it needs to come out now, rather than being water-torture, a drop at a time.

    2. Was any other person involved in the abuse? If so, what is their relation to the church?

    3. It is very rare for someone to just up and start molesting children--it usually starts in the early teen years--were there other children who have not yet come forward? What was his record in other places?

    4. Does your church have a policy regarding safeguards against this sort of thing? The SBC puts out some material on prevention programs that is very good. For example, all classes with children must have two adults there at all times, and Sunday School classes for children must have a window in the classroom door, such that the room is fully visible to the hallway.
  3. dh1948

    dh1948 Member
    Site Supporter

    Oct 11, 2003
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    Major B has given you some good advice. I am not sure I can add much to it. Many years ago I pastored a church when a staff member was arrested for molesting multiple kids in one of our programs. Come to find out, it had been a problem at previous churches...one they had kept hid. This was in a mega-city, so it never made the front page.

    Time...lots of time...will heal the church's reputation. It will be necessary for your life to be an open book and your character impeccable as you minister to the church and the community.

    Another suggestion...contact your insurance carrier and ask them if they have a copy of guidelines that can be instituted in the church that will help reduce the possibility of abuse by any person while they at the church house.
  4. gb93433

    gb93433 Active Member
    Site Supporter

    Jun 26, 2003
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    My suggestion would be to give people every reason to trust you. Make sure you are above board in everything. That means that the church must have an open book with its finances and you must be very careful in being sure that anything you do does not even hint of any impropriety. People on the outside know more than you could ever imagine. Your complete honesty and transparency will go a long way in giving the church credibility. The church may have had a bad pastor but you do not have to be a statistic. I have always believed in letting honesty come forth. If the church had a bad pastor do not cover it up and try to build images by covering it up, instead be a man of integrity and honesty and you will find that the past will be the past rather quickly.
  5. Victorious

    Victorious Member

    Feb 21, 2009
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    I'm not the pastor, but speaking as the wife of a pastor of a small rural church (20-35 in attendance every week), I just want to say I feel for you. Our town is even smaller (350 residents) but news gets around. The last pastor was caught smoking marijuana behind the church with his assistant! Unfortunately, once the church gets a reputation (especially in a small town) it really takes time for the hoopla to settle down, Seven years later we are still "proving" ourselves, making gains in confidence little by little. The good news is, a few came reluctantly to check us out and now the gossip is being turned in our favor.

    My advice to you is not to consider changing the name of the church unless your membership is in full favor of doing so. A new pastor needs to walk softly at first and get to know the people of his congregation before making any drastic changes. Unless they are in love with you, some will not appreciate your changing the name of "their church." It probably wouldn't make a difference because the word will spread like wildfire that so-and-so church changed its name!

    The best thing you can do, in my opinion, is to keep your garments white. Eventually, the reputation your church has will only be dependent upon the love your members have for one another and their community.
  6. SaggyWoman

    SaggyWoman Active Member

    Dec 15, 2000
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    Sometimes your predecessors don't leave good examples to follow. Once, a church I had attended had a pastor who was verbally and physically abusive to his wife (and later child.) The church called him on it with mercy and opportunity to work through it. I think eventually he left the church for a while... then pastored another church. His wife divorced him.

    Just stay above board with things. Walk the walk. Be compassionate and gracious, but know what and where to draw boundaries.
  7. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Aug 23, 2002
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    Should you choose to accept this mission you will have to make your church childrens' security a major priority.

    1. Have windows in all classrooms to minimize privacy.

    2. Teach in teams, nobody should be caring for children alone.

    3. Security checks should be done on all church workers; no security check = no working with children.

    4. Annual teaching concerning the signs of abuse and what to do.

    5. A published policy regarding how these situations are to handled.