Helping Our Churches to be Safer Places

During recent days, newspaper articles from the Houston Chronicle have focused on reports about the mishandling of sexual abuse reports among some Southern Baptist congregations.

Among the SBC family with more than 47,000 local churches, more than 15 million members and our 164-year history, even one report of sexual abuse is too many, and so is any mishandling of abuse reports and the victims making the reports.

Heartbreaking stories have prompted calls for prayer and action to bring about positive change and to minister to those who have been hurt during recent decades.

Please know that your State Board of Missions staff and I are praying for all involved in seeking to respond redemptively. We especially are praying for our SBC president, J.D. Greear, and members of the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study Group that he appointed as they seek to recommend a path forward that recognizes the twin Baptist values of accountability and autonomy.

In our state, we have formed a Sexual Abuse Advisory Task Force of state missionaries and Alabama WMU staff members to make recommendations on how we can respond constructively and effectively to the concerns raised by the news reports and voiced by many of our own leaders.

In the meantime, your State Board of Missions continues to share resources and offer conferencing to the Alabama Baptist family on these critical issues and how to minister safely, effectively and in a Christ-like fashion in all contexts and at all times.

Many months ago, long before the most recent breaking news, we began planning for the Ministry Safe Workshop on Tuesday, March 26, at Heritage Baptist Church, 1849 Perry Hill Road, Montgomery. For more information, please click here:

This conference will offer both best practices as well as pitfalls and warning signs that local churches should take into consideration as they seek to make the church a safe place for all, especially children. It will be led by Kimberlee Norris, an attorney with the Ministry Safe organization. The workshop will focus on how sexual predators select and groom victims. Participants will also learn about ways to skillfully and carefully screen volunteers and staff who may work with children and youth. I hope many Alabama Baptists will be able to attend the conference.

If you need additional information, please click the link above or contact State Missionary Lee Wright at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 241, or (334) 613-2241, [email protected].

During recent years and going back decades, your State Board of Missions has provided guidance for Alabama Baptist churches in the area of child abuse prevention, dating back at least into the 1980s, through such events as Sunday School and Church Weekday Education conferences.

In 2016, the Church & Sexuality Conference was hosted at First Baptist Church of Montgomery with 600 in attendance.

A year later, the “Is Your Ministry Safe?” workshop was hosted at Canaan Baptist Church in Bessemer with around 300 in attendance, representing 100 churches and several associations.

Let me encourage you to look through the numerous resources on your State Board of Missions’ website, such as the ones shown on these two pages:

May I close by offering two practical suggestions?

1.    Strongly consider doing background checks on all volunteers and staff who will be working in any capacity with and in proximity to children and youth.

2.      Most importantly, pray. Please pray for the work of the SBOM task force and the SBC study group. Pray that our churches will be increasingly safer places for all who attend. Pray for the many who need God’s blessing and healing upon their lives as they deal with the aftermath of this difficult issue.

Rick Lance
John 15:5

Executive Director of Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

State Missionary Rick Lance was elected in June of 1998 to serve as executive director of the State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Rick leads state missions efforts and facilitates Great Commission Ministries for the Convention's 3,200+ churches and more than one million Alabama Baptists.

Rick and his wife, Pam, are members at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. They have two daughters.

Any requests for Rick Lance to speak in or visit your church should be directed to Billie Davis at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 253 or (334) 613-2253, [email protected]

For questions about Dr. Lance's Facebook and Twitter accounts or his blog site, you may contact his social media assistant, Keith Hinson, at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 289 or (334) 613-2289, [email protected]