The Hidden Epidemic: Abuse
How to Keep Your Church Safe
Abuse is a serious act that continues to grow in our communities and our churches. A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. Over 90% of abuse is caused by someone familiar. The major types include physical, sexual and emotional. Neglect is just as devastating as abuse and needs to be identified and confronted. Unfortunately, many of those who are victims feel deep shame and guilt and live with a secret - never revealing the horror they went through. How can the local church help eradicate this growing epidemic?
Since the Church isn’t immune from this terrible risk, there needs to be intentional preventive measures to fend off these horrific incidents. I believe prevention starts at the leadership level. The Elders, down through the pastors, all the way to volunteer leaders need to be made aware of the risk levels within their ministries. Training and education is essential. Information will equip the ministries to be aware of potential signs that may lead to inappropriate actions.
Awareness always leads to identification. Predators need to be identified by either background screenings or even your sixth sense about any particular person. We are instructed to, “be wise as serpents and gentle as doves” (Matt 10:16). I was instructed by a prominent leader to “sniff people out.” That doesn’t mean living with an ongoing skepticism, but being cognizant of any odd behaviors. Since abuse hides in dark secret places, light up any strange behavior you may suspect.
Hold your team accountable. Everyone and anyone working with kids needs to give an account for their behavior. Every action needs to be justified and accounted for. This will help minimize any opportunity for inappropriateness.
Communication leads to wise decision making. Keep an open channel for candid discussion. All ideas, thoughts and concerns matter. Never keep any troubling thoughts captive. Bring them to the team, collaborate and take action. Remember, what you think and say matters!
As part of your annual ministry planning, build a strategy of defense against abuse. Be intentional about it and execute it. Make a plan and post it. The church families need to know that it’s safe to be part of your community.