The Night That Could Have Ruined My Ministry, and the one Rule that Saved It.
“But please Pastor Trish, just this once?” her enormous blue eyes pleaded with me, “This is really serious. I need to tell you something. I need you to pray with me. Can we go to your office real quick. Please? I just need you to listen.” With her white blond hair in pig tails, and tears welling up in her eyes, she seemed so very fragile and willowly. Her slumped shoulders were so very thin and she shuffled her tiny feet in her little dress shoes with glittery bows! For just a moment a forgot everything else in the world. I took her minute hand and took just two steps toward the door out of the room. But suddenly I came to my senses and remembered the training I had received in Bible college. The same training I had just DRILLED into my AWANA leaders the past Wednesday night. THE RULE that was posted IN the volunteer breakroom.
THE RULE OF THREE.
“No less than three people can be in a room at any time for ANY reason. NO EXCEPTIONS.”
Since I had just taught on this to my leaders, and we were all here in the big room together, I walked to set a good example so I decided to follow the rule. So, I turned to her and said, “Oh honey, we can pray in here. Just tell me right here how I can pray.” She continued to pull on my hand and plead, “NO, not with all these people around. This is secret.” UH Oh. I didn’t know why, but now my warning bells were going off. Again I said, “Let’s go into a corner of this big room and pray.” This time she got angry, “Don’t you care about me? Let’s just go to your office!” I cautiously replied, “What if we go to my office with the youth pastor? The three of us could pray together?” Now her anger really showed. “No, it has to be just you and me.” The hair began to stand up on the back of my neck. I took her hand and prayed with her right there, and then went on with my night.
The very next day, this girl accused her school teacher of sexually molesting her. In court, the charges were dropped. But it didn’t matter. The teacher had already been fired and could not longer find a job in teaching. What I did NOT know, was that this was the SIXTH time this same girl had falsely accused a teacher of molesting her. The police later said that no matter what they had to take each and every accusation seriously. The child explained in court that this was how she got her mother and her (absent) father to pay attention to her.
I know in my heart that if I had continued taking steps towards my office that night it would have been me. Think it can’t happen to us, women? Think again. God protected me, and so did following the rule of three, which we keep to throughout our kids and family ministry. And this rule has been broken down into many different facets in our ministry- if a leader does not show up and there is only one child in the room, then that class must be combined or another solution found because one leader plus one student equals 2. And that is not acceptable. EVER. WHY? To be blunt, churches are often soft targets for pedophiles. It is inexcusable not do EVERYTHING in your power to protect the precious children you minister to week by week. And step one is -NO ONE is alone with a child. EVER. Anyone insisting on being alone with a child needs to be dismissed from your ministry as soon as possible. Why would they NEED to go off alone with a child? They don’t. So how can we do BETTER at inplementing the rule of three and making our areas safer?
Here are some great ideas that some churches are using to not put adults alone with a child:
A. Glass windows on all classrooms
B. Open concept classrooms- meaning that all rooms are visible to each other, and only partitioned off by dividers. (The big problem here can be noise of course).
C. Two teachers per classroom, or you close the classroom (we used to do this until we went to open concept all in one large auditorium)
D. Combine classes or rearrange as needed, but NEVER allow less than three to a room. Not even once.
Keep in mind that this rule is wonderful to practice not just for protecting the children, yourself and your volunteer staff- you can use it in your day to day church interactions as well. I will NOT meet alone with someone of the opposite sex; I will always have someone else there or the door open. I will not ride alone in a vehicle with someone of the opposite sex (this was also our church policy). I will not have a confrontational discussion with a parent or volunteer alone without a this dude i know or at least an open door during office hours.
Scary stuff I know, but it’s better to be smart and never put yourself in a situation that would look terrible to someone looking in, or that you would have trouble defending. I would rather keep the kids as safe as possible, and focus on the AMAZING work we get to do every single week- introduce kids to Jesus and His Word! The Rule of Three helps us be safer to do just that. All my best- Trisha