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Caring for the Lambs

Protecting Children in the Church

Mother sheep and baby lambs

An article based on the Safety Member Certification “Protecting Children from Abuse.”[1]

From the Bible

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:11).

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" He saith unto him, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee." He saith unto him, "Feed my lambs" (John 21:15).

Also read Psalm 23, the Shepherd's Psalm.


Shepherds have an interest in protecting their sheep, especially the lambs. This was true in Bible times. Job made a reference to his sheepdogs (Job 30:1). There were also guard dogs - Isaiah compared the incompetent spiritual watchmen of Judah to mute and lazy guard dogs (Isaiah 56:10-11), which indicates that there were also faithful guard dogs in Judah.

Before becoming king, David was a shepherd. He had that role because he was the youngest son. He protected the flock with his club and his sling. He probably also had at least two sheepdogs, who helped herd the sheep and would fight a wolf to the death.

Those of us in church security are guard dogs for our churches, looking out for danger, ready to sound the alarm. We are also the sheepdogs, the livestock guardian dogs that are raised with sheep as full time members of the flock who instinctively protect the flock, especially the lambs.[2]

In the News

Ripplemead, Virginia, May 1, 2021 - A woman went to the nursery of a church, pointed to a 2-year-old boy, and said she was there to take him. Camera footage showed the boy following her down the hall and out of the church. Less than 24 hours later the boy was spotted in Clifton Forge. A woman and her boyfriend were arrested and charged with kidnapping. The church stated, "We are immediately examining ways to make our campus and facilities even more safe [safer] and secure for families wishing to come worship with us. We hope that this criminal act on our campus allows other churches to evaluate their own childcare safety procedures." The same pair had previously tried to take children from two other churches, but were refused access by nursery attendants.[3]

Flower Mound and Cedar Hill, Texas, June 21, 2012 - In 2016, medical staff found self-inflicted cuts on a teenaged girl being treated for a fall and sent her to treatment for suicidal depression. It turned out she had become depressed since being molested at a youth camp in Cedar Hill.

She did not tell anyone about the abuse for six years. In 2018 she finally told her parents

A minister at a church in Flower Mound who had been a counselor at the camp was accused of the molestation and criminally charged. Coincidentally he was set down for alcohol abuse at this time. The following year, the girl's parents sued the church for negligence.

In 2020, charges against the former minister were dropped for insufficient evidence - the girl could not positively identify that man as the molester, and by that time there was no DNA evidence. The lawsuit was settled in 2022.[4][5][6]

Central Islip, New York, 2018-2022 - A young man was arrested for sexual abuse of a child. He began molesting a girl age 8 in late 2018 while babysitting for families in his church, and was arrested in early 2022. A plea deal was being considered to avoid having the girl testify. How many others were molested was undisclosed at the time of the news article.[7]

Lincoln County, North Carolina, May 12, 2023 - A speech specialist in a neighboring county reported that a girl receiving speech therapy was being physically abused in her Lincoln County home. The parents allegedly used a paddle with drilled-in holes to spank her and were leaving bruises on her. Videos of the spankings were also found. Investigation revealed that it was long-term abuse, and three children were removed from the home.[8]

Salt Lake City, Utah, February 12, 2024 - At a committee in the Utah House of Representatives, a rabbi told legislators that legal permission to report ongoing child abuse would be "a gift" to clergy. Currently a bill is under consideration to allow clergy to choose to report confessed child abuse in violation of confidentiality if the abuse was ongoing and would continue if there was no intervention. It would also remove penalties for good-faith reporting.[9]

The Most Vulnerable

Lambs are the most vulnerable members of a flock of sheep, the easiest ones for a predator to snatch. They need protection, but who will protect them? A ram might be able to protect himself from a wolf, but he can't be by every lamb in the flock. This is why the shepherd takes weaned pups and raises them with the sheep. They'll bond with the sheep and instinctively protect the lambs, and well-trained dogs help lead the flock.[2]

So who is there to protect the lambs of our congregation from abuse? Pastors, children's department directors, teachers, pre-school and nursery attendants, and youth group leaders are the shepherds. Helping them are the sheepdogs in the Church Safety/Security Ministry. They need to identify and keep out the wolves. They also need to be alert for any wolves that get into the fold.

All four-legged wolves look like wolves. However, not all two-legged wolves look like wolves. A human wolf can disguise himself (or herself) as a shepherd or as a sheep to gain the trust of the lambs.

Predators are not the only threats to our lambs. There are accidental injuries. Note in Psalm 23 how the Good Shepherd will lead the sheep "beside still waters" of safety (v. 2b) and "anoint [the sheep's] head with oil" to cleanse and heal scrapes, cuts, and bruises (v. 5b). In childcare areas and youth activities safety is a concern, and those in charge need to prevent accidents but be prepared to treat injuries, since some accidents happen anyway.

Of course, leading lambs to pasture so they can be fed and grow is critically important (though this is out of the scope of a safety ministry). However, we can keep them safe so they can be nourished in God's Word (Ephesians 6:4) without distraction and grow.

Protecting the Lambs

As sheepdogs, we are primarily protectors. We identify wolves (sexual predators and physical abusers) to keep them out, or to spot those who've gotten in somehow. We work with the shepherds to make the lamb folds (nurseries, classrooms, activity areas) safe places. We train the shepherds in First Aid and life-saving skills so they can respond to injuries and medical crisis incidents.

Mother sheep tending to her lambs laying in the grass

Build Fences

Establish policies and procedures carefully designed to discourage abusive activity and to detect it if it does happen. Examples of child safety fences are:

Have each childcare worker, Sunday School teacher, and youth leader read and sign the Childcare Code of Conduct. Click *HERE* to get the printable downloaded file.

Scrabble letters spelling out Ethics, Integrity, and Code.

Watching for Wolves

This is a joint effort between the Church Safety Committee and church leadership. All staff (including pastoral staff) and volunteers working with children and youth must be vetted. Since any volunteers or staff may sometimes work with children, they should also be vetted.

  1. First, have all staff and volunteer applicants fill out an application. Besides the general data, this also asks for all addresses the applicant had within a window of time, all churches regularly attended within a time range, and all churches where the applicant worked with children or youth and handled accounting or finances. These are used for references in background checking, both by the church and by a vetting agency.
  2. Second, have the applicant agree to background checks. That makes the search legal. If an applicant refuses to sign, then they are not selected.
  3. Third, interview the applicant. Ask the hard questions. Observe their facial expressions, use of voice, and body language for clues to their openness and honesty. Have follow-up questions depending on their answers.
  4. Fourth, conduct a background check.
    1. It is recommended to use a professional background screening service, such as Protect My Ministry. It has the resources to do a deeper check than what the church can do on its own. Be sure you give them all the former addresses. Some may be missing in records at first.
      1. Sign up for re-verification and continuous monitoring.
    2. Personally check some references, especially former churches or schools, preferably by phone. Try to find out the applicant's conduct while working with children or youth, especially if there were any problems or questions about how they related to kids.
    3. While waiting for results, you can check sex offender lists to see if the person is registered in your area. Also check lists for their previous addresses. You can use the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website.
  5. If there are any questions, have a second interview.

Protecting from Other Threats

Abuse is not the only threat to children and youths. Some of the others are active shooters, fires, and severe weather (especially tornadoes in the central part of the country).

Active shooter - Evacuation or lockdown are the two choices facing a teacher during an active shooter incident.

First of all, during a lockdown the classroom doors should be able to lock shut quickly with no extra motions required. The simplest way is "close to lock." The door latch is locked so it can only be opened from the inside without a key. During a class, the door can be kept partly open with a door jam. For a lockdown just lift the jam and close the door. Sheepdog Church Security recommends using the Gotega Door Stopper (available on Sheepdog Church Security's Amazon store Recommended Equipment for Safety Ministries. Just kick down on the lever to lift the stopper and let the door close.

Second, each teacher should know what route to use if the class evacuates.

Click *HERE* for the "Active Shooter Lockdown Checklist."

Fire - Know how to evacuate* safely in case of a fire. Participate in fire drills. Have evacuation routes posted in the nursery and in each classroom by the door.

Tornado - This is an in-house sheltering* event. Each childcare worker should know how to get the class to the tornado shelter.

* For evacuation (or transfer to a tornado shelter) from a nursery use evacuation cribs. For toddlers and preschoolers, use safety walking ropes, such as the WR99 Safety Walking Rope with Colorful Handles on the SDCS Amazon store.

Red emergency button

Dealing with a Wolf

What should you do if you know of or reasonably suspect child abuse of any kind (whether it is sexual, physical, emotional-mental, or neglect)? Reporting it to local authorities is mandated by law. The how and to whom may be specified by the state or locality. Some states exempt clergy if they hear it in confidence. Most allow or require reporting anyway if the abuse is ongoing (see the news article about Utah [10]). For a Safety Team member or a childcare worker, the protocol is to report it to their superior. They may go to church leadership if the superior is implicated. If someone in the church leadership is suspect, then go to the governing board. If they will not report it, then go directly to the authorities.

When reporting abuse, use the "Suspected Child Maltreatment Report" in the Reports and Forms Bundle from SDCS.

clipart of a red clipboard with a checklist report

If the abuse is in the victim's home or by someone not of the church, the church should cooperate with the authorities as they investigate.

If the alleged abuser is someone in the church, he or she should be confronted. If a staff member or volunteer, that person should be set aside from working with children or youth while the case is investigated. Again, cooperate with authorities.

Now it's time for the oil of healing (Ps. 23:5). Pastoral care is needed by the persons abused and their families. This is comfort and counseling. Above all, let victims know that they are not at fault. This is needed by victims of all ages. The victim and their families need counseling. If your church is not equipped to handle this (especially if a pastor is at fault), then bring in outside professional help.


A Church Safety Ministry should urge, encourage, advise, and help church leadership in protecting children, youths, and vulnerable adults from abuse.

Training and Resources

Training and resources are available to equip and guide a church in protecting the most vulnerable among us from abuse.

Safety Member Certification

All Safety Team members need to be trained and certified through the Safety Member Certification training program. "Protecting Children from Abuse" is one of the eight training modules. Modes of training are Team Certification (church-hosted classes), Individual Certification (self-paced online instruction), and Online Events (live Zoom Classes).[1]

The Online Events 2023-2024 school year is well underway. The 2024-2025 school year begins on September 8, 2024. Students enrolling now are enrolled for a year.





Training Module


Sep 10

Nov 12

Jan 28

Mar 24

Safety Team Fundamentals


Sep 17

Nov 19

Feb 4

Apr 7

Active Shooter Response


Sep 24

Dec 3

Feb 11

Apr 14

Deescalating Disruptive Persons


Oct 1

Dec 10

Feb 18

Apr 21

Protecting Children from Abuse


Oct 8

Dec 17

Feb 25

Apr 28

Basic Use of Force Laws


Oct 15

Jan 7

Mar 3

May 5

Arson and Fire Safety


Oct 22

Jan 14

Mar 10

May 19

Storms and Disasters


Nov 5

Jan 21

Mar 17

Jun 2

Mass Trauma Emergencies

Church Security Guide

The Church Security Guide has ten articles, one on the home page with a list of links to the other nine. "Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Church" is sixth on the list.[10][11]

Free Downloads

Childcare Code of Conduct, a free download, is a document that should be read and signed by every volunteer and staff member working with children and youth. Click *HERE* to get it.[12]

The Reports and Forms Bundle, a free download, includes the "Suspected Child Maltreatment Report." Get it by clicking *HERE*[13]

Active Shooter Lockdown Checklist should be printed and posted inside every classroom. To get it, click *HERE*[14]

Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website

The National Sex Offender Search on the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website can be used to search for registered sex offenders in your church's community as well as checking to see if an applicant or worker is registered as a sex offender. [15]


  1. Kris Moloney, "Protecting Children from Abuse," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. "Livestock guardian dog," Wikipedia [].
  3. Danielle Wallace, "Virginia woman, boyfriend charged with kidnapping boy, 2, from church nursery as motive remains unknown," Fox News, May 4, 2021 [].
  4. Bob Allen, "Woman claiming childhood sexual abuse sues Texas megachurch for $1 million," Baptist News Global, July 30, 2019 [].
  5. Ken Camp, "Charges against former Village Church employee dismissed," Baptist Standard, September 1, 2020 (Editor's Note: The last three paragraphs were added Sept. 2 after the article originally was posted the previous day) [].
  6. Emily Belz, "The Village Church Settles Abuse Complaint," Christianity Today, August 12, 2022 [].
  7. Rachel Yonkunas, "An active member of a local church is facing charges of sexually abusing a minor as far back as 2018," News12, Long Island, April 5, 2023 [].
  8. Hank Lee, "Parents beat child with wooden paddle, caused bruising, investigators say," WCNC, May 19, 2023 [].
  9. Alixel Cabrera (Utah News Dispatch), "Clergy members' ability to report child abuse 'is a gift,' rabbi says at House hearing: The bill has gained public support after years of failing in the Legislature," Standard-Examiner, February 12, 2024 [].
  10. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  11. Kris Moloney, "Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Church," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  12. Kris Moloney, "Childcare Code of Conduct," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  13. Kris Moloney, "Reports and Forms Bundle," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  14. Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Lockdown Checklist," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  15. Staff Writers, "National Sex Offender Search," Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice [].