His eye is on the sparrow, but he was tapping my shoulder all morning.

June 16, 2010 0 0 comments

We work over breaks and take a break over meetings.  During meal times and break times, we have several conversations .... each one conducted fast and with few words, but ...

June 15, 2010 0 1 comments

I mentioned in my first synod blog the anxiety I felt driving to synod and then how it seemed to dissipate with meeting and greeting old friends and colleagues.  I felt like the sparrow protected by God's almighty hand.  So I'll refer to these synod blogs as the "view from the sparrow's nest".

June 14, 2010 0 0 comments

Synod for me is like a lot of training events.  In one respect, synod is a friendly environment to discuss a subject matter that is dear to my heart and therefore easy to talk about.  On the other hand, delegates, like conference attendees, often ask pointed questions and challenge the speaker's knowledge or the opinions of others.  It is this second respect which draws out the anxiety in me and probably in a few other speakers. 

June 12, 2010 0 3 comments

The fourth in a series of questions frequently raised in training sessions:  I am a man who cares deeply about sexual abuse, but what can one man do to make a difference?  Isn't (sexual abuse) primarily a problem women need to learn how to keep themselves safe? Gerry Heyboer writes the following response.  The answer to the first question is "A lot!"  The answer to the second question is "No!"

May 28, 2010 0 2 comments

How should we handle a youth leader who is sending unwanted emails and text messages to a member of the youth group?  (Presume for this question that the leader and group member are of the opposite sex.)

May 21, 2010 0 3 comments

This blog asks the second in a series of questions churches have raised.  Many churches have written a child safety policy, but they report that after a year or two, no one seems to pay much attention to it.  Some churches report that they aren't sure where it is or whether any one is following the policy.
So our question of the week is: How can we be sure our child safety policy is not filed in a drawer and forgotten? 

May 14, 2010 0 3 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse - Many churches see this happening and even know it is happening yet choose to ignore it.

May 8, 2010 0 0 comments

For the next several weeks, this blog will pose one of several typical questions asked of Safe Church Ministry when we conduct training and education events.  Sometimes the answer will appear in the blog itself, and sometimes a guest will be invited to respond to the question.
This week's question: Is there a particular personality type who is more prone to commit abuse against a child?

May 6, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Safe Church Ministry Child Safety Survey – Part 1
Results and Summary
April 23, 2010

A hearty, Thank You! to all who participated. Your responses have encouraged, challenged, and motivated us in our work toward making more churches safer in the CRC.

I. Introductory...

May 5, 2010 0 3 comments
Resource, Article

"The Voices of the Silent" is a short story of child who kept his abuse a secret.  The secrecy and the pain of the abuse impacted the child's ability to adjust to school and to fit in with his peers.  But his struggles did not go unnoticed by a caring teacher.  The author gives a glowing tribute...

April 21, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

You remember the child rhyme: "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me".  They got that one wrong!  If you want a new perspective on that rhyme, talk to an adult who is in an abusive relationship.  I've heard from women and men that they would rather be struck with a...

April 20, 2010 0 4 comments

There might be some people who feel smug reading about another denomination or faith community on the hot seat for not protecting its youth. However, I cringe when I read those newspaper articles. Those articles could be written about any church, anywhere...

April 20, 2010 0 0 comments

Each year, the third Sunday in September, Safe Church Ministry requests the churches to set aside some part of the worship service to focus on abuse awareness.  In the past few years, we've focussed on abuse through bulletin inserts designed to draw attention to child abuse, domestic violence, and elderly abuse. If you are a church leader or church member reading this blog, what information about abuse would you like to see available?  What is the best format to reach out to you or your church?  If you have some ideas, I'd like to hear from you. 

March 4, 2010 0 7 comments
Discussion Topic

What else would you like to see in the Safe Church network? Please submit your ideas and suggestions.

January 27, 2010 0 6 comments
Resource, Article

Sadly, the Christian community is not exempt from the pain and brokenness of the world. God created a perfect world, but we can't go one day without being confronted by the horror of abuse somewhere. When we encounter an incident of abuse, we lament that things are not the way they are supposed...

January 26, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Brochure or Pamphlet

The goal of a classis Safe Church Team is to help each congregation build and sustain healthy interactions between church leaders and those who participate in church programs or worship at the church.

January 26, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

The Christian Reformed Church has more than 20 safe church team advocates who respond to and provide a range of assistance to claimants going through the advisory panel process – a synodical-approved process for an individual who has made a claim of abuse against a church leader. The panel...

January 25, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

On October 16-17, 2009, chairpersons from twenty Classis Safe Church Teams met at Calvin College’s Prince Center for a time of learning and networking. This year, the topic of learning was Restorative Justice, and Safe Church Ministry brought Ms. Gail Rice and Mr. Mark Vander Vennen to speak on...

January 25, 2010 0 1 comments

Anyone having difficulty with a volunteer who doesn't want to go through screening?  How does your church or organization handle that?  We'd like to hear your success stories and the not-so-successful stories because we all learn from those, too.

January 25, 2010 0 6 comments

Spiritual abuse, like emotional abuse, is more elusive than physical or sexual abuse.  Yet, spiritual abuse occurs in the church setting as do the other forms of abuse.  What do you think spiritual abuse is about?  What steps should church leaders take to handle an allegation of spiritual abuse...

January 25, 2010 0 4 comments
Resource, Article

Shattered Faith
As a teenager Joanne Ravensbergen was abused by her brother-in-law, now a retired CRC pastor. After her brother-in-law pleaded no contest to indecent assault, Ravensbergen said she “could not worship in a church that had [the abuser’s] picture in the council room.” Even...

January 22, 2010 2 0 comments
Resource, Article

Cynthia* never expected that a pool party with church council members and her pastor would leave her humiliated and traumatized decades later.Most in the pool, including the pastor, were naked. The pastor forced Cynthia out of her swimsuit and asked her to measure his penis. The pastor’s wife...

January 22, 2010 1 4 comments
Resource, Article

About 25 years ago reports began to surface about physical, emotional, and sexual abuse perpetrated by members and even leaders in the Christian Reformed Church. Synod appointed a committee to study the matter. The committee hired social researchers to conduct a professional survey of the extent...

January 21, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Half of the Christian Reformed Church’s 1,100 congregations now have a Child Safety Policy in place. And approximately half of the 47 classes (regional groups of churches) have Safe Church Teams in place.

“I’m encouraged that we’re halfway there,” said Beth Swagman, director of the CRC’s...

January 21, 2010 0 0 comments



One answer to question of the week:

The first steps are concensus building and promotion. Begin by requesting in writing that a Safe Church Coordinator (SCC) be appointed by Council. Before writing the letter, float the idea to your Chair of Council, to your Pastor, and to anyone else on council who you think might be interested in having this policy implemented. In discussion, work at building concensus. In the letter to your Council include a possible job description for a SCC, and recommend some names of people whom you think would be willing and able. Talk to both men and women whom you feel share your desire for Safe Church policy implementation. Talk also to heads of other church ministries -- Sunday School, Nursery, GEMS, Cadets and Youth Group primarily -- and brainstorm with them how the volunteers under their supervision can best implement the policy requirements that pertain to their ministry.

If all of this begins to sound like a full-time job, don't despair. Take the long view and seize the conversational opportunities when they present themselves (e.g., over coffee after a church service, at congregational meetings, etc.). Be prepared to engage in advocacy for quite some time. In other words -- be patient but persistent!

Here's a couple ideas for Abuse Awareness Sunday -
1) Create a short article for churches to publish in their monthly newsletter the month before the Sunday or of the Sunday. The material for this article could be about the same as would have been on a bulletin insert. The article could be sent to churches via their email address. The church newsletter editor could add a few sentences about what the church is doing on Abuse Awareness Sunday. This method would conserve paper (by not using a bulletin insert) and would reach all church members in time to anticipate the theme Sunday.

2) Change Abuse Awareness Sunday from September to October or April. In the US, October is Domestic Violence Month, and April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

What do others think?

Good words are creative. "And God said,"Let there be light!" From the beginning that is the way it was to be. However, after Adam and Eve's fall words could also be destructive. They could do just the opposite of their original purpose. Instead of building up, they do tear down.
When words are used destructively again and again they suck the life out of a person. When so much of a person's value is destroyed it may be a relief to be physically attacked. Or the person may have so little "self" left that they begin to believe in some way they deserve not just the words but also the physical punishment.

posted in: Sticks and stones

Thank you for the great suggestion. If a person in your local church or community has a story of healing or restoration that he or she will share, that story becomes a powerful witness to other people who have been abused and to the general church member who may be unaware of how abuse impacts a person's life. Are you thinking of a 3-minute video to be shown during a worship service? Perhaps through these blog comments, someone may be encouraged to begin a journey of disclosure that could be shared with the broader church.

Thank you, Fellowship CRC, those are clear and helpful ideas. I think offering a "cafeteria" of resources allows each church to pick what works best in their setting. I'll keep your suggestions at hand as we begin planning for Abuse Awareness.

I've been thinking about this Sunday and wonder if we could focus on what makes a church healthy, so that it prevents abuse. Healthy individuals, families, church communities decrease the likelihood of abuse. Isn't that prevention also. It brings a more positive attitude the whole discussion and empowers people with things they can DO rather than don't do.

I would like to suggest that the Abuse Prevention Team create a video about some "success" stories. We are constantly hearing the same information about the importance of doing thorough screening, proper procedures, etc. Are there any stories of success where someone who was abused has come to experience healing through the work of their church's Abuse Prevention Team? I know abuse is never a happy story, but healing ought to be.

The best way to interface with us is to send an e-mail to our church's e-mail address with appropriate resources pasted on the e-mail. Items such as short well worded litanies, and careful selection of songs would enable us to incorporate that into our worship service. The e-mail should arrive at least three weeks before the appropriate Sunday.

We do not like to use bulletin inserts or other paper based items intended for each member.

Thank you for raising the issue of "spiritual talk". I'm not quite sure how to respond to spiritual talk. Mostly, I feel guilty for even thinking about challenging it when I hear it. I'll give an example. What does "That's a God thing" mean? Isn't everything a God thing? If I agree with the speaker, I'm probably saying that just to be nice. I'm tempted to challenge it, but then will the speaker think I don't give credit to God for His work? See, it just messes me up. The use of spiritual talk reminds me of peer pressure. Others judge you as "in" or "out" depending on whether you say what they say. Those judgments get elevated to a greater impact when people use scriptures to justify the judgments.

I agree that the perfect screening procedure does not exist. However, if a tool is inadequate by itself (the criminal record check), then we should be willing to seek out other steps of screening. An application form can ask about an applicant's experience with other organizations. For example, was the applicant dismissed or terminated for misconduct? Interviews are another important screening step. During an interview, the applicant might describe his or her conduct with a child which could lead the interviewer to question the applicant's suitability to work with that age group. And references are not just about asking your best friends for a rosey review. Some friends or co-workers will share the concerns they have about an applicant if they are assured the source won't be shared with the applicant. The point to be made here is that we should do due diligence to assure parents and guests to our churches that we have taken reasonable steps to consider the appropriateness of each volunteer for a position. What do other people think?

What helped me to understand this difficult concept was the video we watched at the Safe Church Team Chairperson's Conference. To actually see it played out; how the victim and family were able to finally verbalize how they felt about what happened was the key. As the perpetrators go through the criminal justice system they don't see how what they did affected the victim. When you see their facial responses, you can tell that this approach makes it sink in for them. They truly did damage to another person, and the family/friends of that individual.

I would like to share this information at our classis level Safe Church Team. I am going to search the web for videos. Is there a video that you would suggest that is available online?

I've been thinking about your blog and I wonder if part of the answer is that as a church we believe that God and the Bible are the answers to healing. For example: God is love, God heals and the importance of forgiveness. In our minds God is good. What we fail to realize is that in the mind of the victim, the abuse, the pain, the horror, the opposite of love, good and healing has now become almost inseparately linked to God. What the church can do is back off the "spiritual talk". There will come a time for that but it might be a long time before the person is able to include God in the journey. The church can be praying for protection of the victim, that he or she won't wonder away from God, that healing will come. The church should not be quick to push an agenda of forgiveness. The church should show what God's love is by their actions and words. Practical help, acceptance of where the person is at are two examples. The church might want to talk more about Jesus rather than God if that is helpful. The church should be sure to ASK the victim what they need and not assume they know. The journey out of the pain of spiritual abuse can take a long time. Is the church ready to walk that journey no matter how long and curved the road is?

The article seems to suggest that there are more steps of screening that will reveal who past abusers particularly for those who have not been convicted. It would be helpful to know what those steps are if indeed they exist. The perfect screening procedure does not exist. Will reference checks (presumably supplied by the volunteer) or personal interviews reveal something more?