Hello, BRN Family! It’s good to be with you today.

The Baptist Resource Network’s Executive Board recently asked us to circulate a letter among some of our churches based on questions on 2023’s Annual Church Profile (or ACP, for short). These questions, asked by the Southern Baptist Convention and not by us, are related to a church’s efforts to prevent abuse in children’s ministry and in serving the vulnerable. Specifically, churches were asked if their congregation ensured that staff and all those working with kids and students had background checks or if they held trainings on how to reportl abuse and on how to care for survivors.

In reviewing the ACP submissions, BRN staff noted that some churches answered “no” or “prefer not to answer” to one or more of these questions. While we respect our churches for providing honest answers, we also wanted to clear up any confusion the letter may have caused.

We know every church is autonomous, but we want to use this opportunity to share about the abuse prevention resources the BRN offers as well as information about the state laws churches are required to follow.

The BRN is committed to help you as you strive to create a safe and effective youth and children’s ministry. On our website at brnunited.org/abuse-prevention, we’ve compiled a list of resources, including an Abuse Prevention Awareness and Best Practices guide, to assist you in securing background checks, reporting incidents, and ministering to victims of abuse.

This page also details specific Pennsylvania and New Jersey laws that apply directly to church ministry. To remind you:

In Pennsylvania, state law requires all paid staff and unpaid volunteers who are responsible for the welfare of children/minors, or who have direct contact with children/minors, to have a specific clearance that includes background checks through the State Department of Human Services AND Pennsylvania State Police as well as mandatory reporter training. This law is specifically written to include children’s ministry workers, youth ministry workers, Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, and others involved in church ministry overseeing minors. Additionally, all clergy are considered mandated reporters, whether working directly with children or not. They should obtain their clearances and be mandatory reporter trained. You can learn more at KeepKidsSafe.pa.org.

In New Jersey, state law makes every adult a mandatory reporter. That means that all adults have a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse. Because of this legal requirement, it is wise to have all staff and volunteers working in a ministry with minors undergo a background check and, at a minimum have all church staff and key volunteers in youth and children’s ministry, complete online training for mandated reporters like the free training available at https://www.reportabusepa.pitt.edu.

Please know we are here for our churches. The BRN’s desire is to help encourage churches to have the safest environment against any abuse, and we stand ready to assist you. For additional questions or help with this or any issue, please contact the BRN Help Desk at helpdesk@brnunited.org or by calling or texting 717-652-5856.

Thanks for listening in and God bless you, as always.