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Being good stewards of children

Michael Harvey is working with a team from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Rochester to update a policy manual he "prays we never have to use."

But the director of Christian Education knows that child abuse is possible anywhere, even in a church, so his church expects to have the improved child-abuse prevention policy ready for review in a few months and final approval by early fall.

"We want to make sure the kids are safe, we want to make sure the adults are safe," he said.

To help with the process, he and two others from the church went to a February seminar at the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University. The presenter was Victor Vieth, its executive director, who has also said he will help review the Redeemer policy.

Updating is proactive because Harvey said he's never heard of abuse in the 10 years he's been at the southeast Rochester church. It has a policy that tells adults they aren't to be alone with a child, there needs to be windows on doors and other things to prevent abuse. The policy needs updating to make sure it's as strong as it can be and to add some things, Harvey said.


The draft policy gives more details on how adult leaders are trained and about background checks, he said. The checks aren't perfect because not all abusers have records, he said, but it might deter potential abusers from trying to gain access to children.

It will also tell who has to report abuse, how and what to do if it is reported, he said.

The next part is how to deal with people who have been abused or are struggling with stopping themselves from abusing, he said. The church wants to be compassionate and help adults but the main focus is on preventing the abuse, Harvey said.

"This is how God helps us be good stewards of the people in the congregation," Harvey said.

The curriculum at the child protection training center was actually geared more toward seminaries and how they can train future church leaders in preventing abuse and how to minister to those who need help. The system was developed with the help of Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mankato, which agreed to do a pilot, said Pastor Gaylin Schmeling, seminary president.

It's a small seminary with about 15 full-time students, he said. Vieth came to them in 2007 to see if they would agree to the pilot, he said. It's taught as part of the course on pastoral counseling that he said needs to be stronger. "We know that these things are going on in general Christianity and the secular world," he said. "It was preparing our students if such a situation should arise."

"It was very beneficial to know how these things are at times covered up, even in Christian institutions," he said. But he also said churches need to apply the gospel. "These things are definitely wrong but there is forgiveness also," he said.

His students learn about the psychological aspects of abuse. "Sometimes you can do what you think is best and it's totally mistake," Schmeling said.


Feedback has been very positive from students, as well as pastors who used it in summer school, Schmeling said.

"The main thing for me is it has raised the awareness of our young men to these concerns and also given them ideas or examples or how to handle first of all, the person that has been abused, what to say, what to do, and also ideas about how to handle the offender," he said. "That's the center of everything."

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