Grateful to see this action taken seriously by the Synod and in a swift manner. I would HIGHLY recommend adding to the list the resources from "The Peacemaker" by Ken Sande. In addition to being a really biblically solid book, the ministry also provides training for people desiring to become mediators of conflict resolution. While this is something we all should strive toward, there at times need to have others help when reconciliation hasn't been achieved.
Check it out: https://rw360.org/peacemaking/
Concerning forgiveness: I am curious (for those who have read all the above recommendations) if there is consensus on the role of forgiveness to those unwilling to repent, or if the resources address that at all. I know it has caused some debate before in certain circles, but it can often be misunderstood if not properly described and explored. From the perspective of a personal declaration of forgiveness from the offended to the offender, some believe that forgiveness should always be granted, even if the offender is unrepentant. Others believe that one should not tell the unrepentant offender that they are forgiven because it does a disservice to them. We should desire repentance and reconciliation to God. Their sin/offense is first and foremost against Him. Now, to not declare to the person that you forgive them is not the same as being an unforgiving person. We are to by all means forgive them from the heart and be ready to declare forgiveness to them, but only upon the offender humbly repenting and seeking the reconciliation as well. In other words, it does not mean that one would hold something against the offender or store up bitterness toward them until they repent... that would be an unforgiving heart. But for the sake of the gospel, we should lovingly confront and seek reconciliation with the offender. We want to forgive just as (in the same way) God in Christ has forgiven us. (Eph 4:32) I think that God does not just dismiss the sins and offenses of the unrepentant (that would be unjust) but instead he pursues them in love and seeks reconciliation which He accomplished and applied through His Son's life and death. But I don't think that forgiveness is ever granted without repentance. (many bring up Jesus' comments on the cross but I think that does not make a clear case for the later position).
Anyways, sorry to go on. I know this may not all apply to the area of disagreeable differences, in which case brotherly love should reign, but perhaps it can be a helpful discussion concerning clear cases where forgiveness is needed. Thanks!
I'll have to check that out! Looks hot off the press. I was encouraged to read more about him recently and saw that he co-authored a book with the late J. M. Boice. It sounds like he is a solid reformed guy and Lord willing, will have a long, healthy presence in D.C. serving our nation. Refreshing and needed.
Church members should be made aware that Canada Revenue Agency allows the discounting of church property rentals to members of the congregation provided such discount amounts are deducted from such members' church donation receipts issued for tax purposes at the end of the year.
No, Everett, I can't think of any reason for that. Please consult the last paragraph of p. 119 of my CRC Church Order Commentary. It is the council that is in charge and an ordained minister leading such an ordination is not an absolute requirement.
Thanks for your comment. Glad you found it encouraging.
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse's new book is just out - Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal (St. Martin’s Press).
We do host an event for the community - games, trunks open with candy/displays, etc. We've been having probably 2500 + each of the past couple of years. Good exposure and a safe alternative....
Gateway Community CRC, Merced, CA
Rosewood Church has been hosting our "Outrageous Pumpkin Party" every October 31 since 2002, which attracts 3,000-4,000 people from the community. Admission is free, but every child must be registered in order to play the games using a "treasure map" that is hole-punched at each game booth. We have about 20-some game booths, each staffed with church members who give prizes or candy. We also have face painting, Bible give-away, a maze crawl, and a photo booth, and at the end children may turn in their treasure map with a minimum of 10 hole punches to receive a treasure sack full of candy as a bonus! The treasure sack includes a brochure highlighting our ministries for/with families. With the registration data, we follow up with invitations to our midweek ministries for children and youth, and of course Sunday worship (but that is not usually the first entry point).
Our "OPP" provides a light, bright alternative for children and families on Halloween night, and is our biggest outreach of the year. Many people from the community call Rosewood their church because they come here on Halloween and Easter (Easter-egg hunt and pancake breakfast).
The OPP is funded by donations from church members (candy, cupcakes, and money), and our food booth featuring tacos, nachos, hot dogs, and drinks for purchase.
We have a situation where we need to ordain an elder but there are no ministers of the Word available for a couple of weeks. After that, we have three weeks of baptisms and a Lord's Supper celebration. Since we're already delayed in this ordination/installation (we typically replace outgoing officebearers in May), I'd like to get this person up and running sooner rather than later. Is there any reason why the Chair of Council, an elder, cannot lead the installation part of the service?
This is beautiful. I see the ability to lament as the sign of a healthy faith, one that is willing to plumb the depths knowing we are in God’s Hands Who plumbed the depths before us. Thank you for this article, drawing out attention to real life, truth in the inward parts. How encouraging.
Thanks Fred! Safe Church is so thankful for the wealth of information that you know and your willingness to share.
This post warmed my heart and encouraged me today. The imagery made me feel like I was at camp too. Thanks for sharing!
God's Blessings in your large task. It was 9 or 10 years ago that i started on the safe church (abuse prevention) initiative. I often compare Abuse prevention to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Province Ontario) as it is all about policy and procedures, followed up with tons of documentation and training. Initially this can seem overwhelming, but it becomes part of the culture and expectation of providing a safe environment. There is a lot of very good information and training available (Ontario). Much has been written lately on the Network about various 'situations', and yet little is shared around training and signing off on expected activities and behaviors. Leaders in the church have the responsibility to protect the vulnerable, but maybe as important, is protecting the staff and the volunteers. All 3 groups must be protected .... I would encourage you to raise the legal, moral, and Christlike responsibility in creating a safe environment for all.
PS. If you are in Ontario, feel free to be in touch, and I'll flood you with ideas, videos, and documents. Fred@Bennink.ca
Yes! We had about 4,000 members of the community come by during our Fall Festival last year. Here is how we announced it this year:
Join us for our FREE Fall Festival at Sunlight Community Church on Oct. 27 from 4 until 7 p.m. We'll have trunk-or-treat, bounce houses, hay rides, food for purchase, games, live performances, and more! Admission and activities are FREE; however, we encourage each family to bring a jar of peanut butter to drop off at the Grace Packs table to help feed hungry children in our area. All who donate a jar will be entered into a drawing for an awesome prize!
What an incredibly cool night. I love that dinner is served and you have included both Reformation hymns and a pie-in-the-face. Sign me up!
Thanks for sharing this opening Kim!
Bulletin: Events, calender for that week, announcements about/from church members, volunteer schedule for this and next week, general announcements.
Newsletter: Missionary updates, stories from our Bible Studies or Youth Programs, notes from organizations we support, monthly calendar, event recaps, announcements too long to fit in our bulletin.
Social Media: Reminders for events, pictures/recaps from events, sharing posts from other organizations we support.
Website: Full calendar is available here.
We also have a bulletin board and occasionally do email blasts for special events.
Looking for an admin
Congratulations on your new position as a Safe Church classis coordinator; it is my hope and prayer that your work will bear fruit within the churches in your classis.
The CRC Safe Church Ministries has a webpage titled About Safe Church Ministry. You can find many resources there. These might be what you are looking for:
*Safe Church Ministry: A Church Leader's Role:A user-friendly guide to what you need to know about Safe Church Ministry, including information about the dynamics of abuse, the harm done, the needs of those who have been affected, and helpful ways to respond. (long-ish 16 pages)
First CRC of Prinsburg, MN is holding such a gathering. Our bulletin announcement reads as follows:
"A Reformation Celebration will again be held in our church the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 31. Join us for a free barbecue supper from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. in the church basement. At 6:00 p.m., you are invited to hear the Reformation story as told by Pastor Chris Alle and to sing hymns of the Reformation. Throughout the evening, there will also be indoor and outdoor activities, snacks and games for kids of all ages as well as an opportunity to throw a “pie-in-a-Council-member’s- face”! Join us for an evening of fun, food and fellowship!"
Last year it was pie in the face of the pastor, and several area pastors were recruited to help bear the burden. Interestingly, the Pastor helping us out (as we are currently vacant) is Pastor Chris Alle, who was recently featured in this Banner article: https://www.thebanner.org/news/2018/10/church-reaching-the-broken-receives-crc-support
This is a wonderful opportunity for students pondering next steps in life and faith.
I had never thought about the church-planting mentor bit. Thank you for opening up my eyes to some of the obstacles female church planters in the CRC face. I appreciate the willingness to speak about the uphill battle and hope to be more of an advocate wherever possible.
If you keep scrolling to the bottom you should find the 'general job description' including primary position responsibilities, qualifications, and contact info to apply. Let me know if you don't see them and I'll see if we can troubleshoot!
I am unable to find a job description attached, only a video that loops.
Curious. . . Debbie, et all, do you have any best practices you might be willing to share with others? Or any resources you might recommend for libraries being run by those without much experience?
AMEN. Thanks for these insightful comments!
I am relatively new to the CRC, but have been involved in evangelical churches all of my life as a lay leader. I read the Q and A’s with great interest. I also read them in the context of a decades-long decrease in the number of people who call the CRCNA their church home. The statements on church worship help to shed light for me on why such a decrease has been happening. I offer the following observations:
- The focus of what I read seems to be on looking backward on worship as it has been, rather than forward to what it can be.
- What may have worked well in the past (pre-1960’s) has not been effective since then. The presence of many former CRC church buildings in my community, may be testimony to that reality. Several congregations, even now, are on life-support.
- The numerous proscriptions on worship has a “law-feel” to it. It seems that the denomination’s zeal to protect forms of worship that have been prevalent in the past, has resulted in losing touch with how worship can be renewed or unleashed to be relevant to the needs of post-WW II generations of believers, like me (a Boomer) and my younger sisters and brothers.
- How the CRCNA looks at worship (as well as outreach, evangelism and other factors) will determine whether or not the denomination continues its slide into the abyss of irrelevancy. My hope is that better days are ahead. My fear is that they are not. The jury (all of us, as CRCNA-ers) is still deliberating.
Thank you for stimulating my thinking about worship. My prayer is that there will be increased openness to where the Holy Spirit might lead us as a denomination so that no one is left behind. May we be infected with a health discomfort level about worship, while seeing it as an adventure on which God is leading us.
Thanks for sharing this opening, Michelle!
Please contact Michelle VanDenBerg, Pastor of Congregational Life, for more information on this position. 303-756-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Praise our God, who is an amazing, healing, transforming God, able to bring something beautiful out of the darkest places.
wow, i'm in tears... how can it be heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time... by the love and grace of God... thank You Lord!
and thank you Kelly and safe church and all of you who have been in the trenches fighting these abuses for decades, often facing so much resistance... and now seeing these stories coming into the light for healing, so God will be glorified and people will be healed in the midst of this ugly, horrific mess that is being exposed (and it should be exposed)... a difficult and painful process, but in the long term, so healthy and it will bring righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by the painful process... through this He is strengthening the feeble arms and weak knees (the victims, those who still have deep unresolved trauma, the advocates that have been fighting for decades and running into resistance, the families that have suffered with no support from their spiritual leaders)... He gives us the privilege to partner with Him to make level paths for our feet, so that the lame will not be further harmed, but rather healed...
Kelly, I believe it, but can I get backup if possible for the statement... The majority of the perpetrators of sexual violence against men are white, heterosexual men . EOQ
Let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks so much for asking this question Annie! (You are on my list of people to get back to, but as you know from previous experience, it sometimes requires patience for a response from Safe Church; we tend to keep pretty busy). Perhaps others have this same question, so this is a good place for me to respond to you, and perhaps assist others as well. So, again, thanks for asking!
Here are the items, with links, that we tend to recommend for those just getting started:
Our Safe Church brochure, which is available free of charge in three languages, Korean, Spanish and English. Note the vision for Safe Church and the five guiding goals for our ministry.
Another is Ten Ways to Make Your Church a Safer Place (very sorry, only in English at this point) This one is free up to the first 9 copies, and it gives churches ideas for what they could be doing to help prevent abuse and to respond to it in helpful ways.
We also have several half-page flyers or bulletin inserts, each featuring a different topic. So, if there is a certain topic that is of greater interest, or is a current focus, these make great hand-outs at a classis meeting. The one called, Is it Abuse? and The Healing Path feature some good general information about abuse and it's impacts. One on child abuse is also very helpful as often the first place churches begin with safe church is creating policies to protect children and youth (the most vulnerable among us) All of these, as well as others are available here free of charge (some have been translated into Spanish, very sorry, no Korean at this point - if you would like to help us with Korean translation, let us know - it's not just the words, it's the concepts and culture along with the power dynamic operating in abuse that must all be considered. It's not an easy translation.)
Finally, we have our new resource Responding to Abuse: A Toolkit for Churches, which works well online with live links to other information. It is also available in a hard copy booklet.
Just getting started? I'd stick with the brochure for your first classis meeting; there is enough there. And maybe pass around the Ten Ways Document (in a page protector), as something that each church could order for themselves. That seems to me a good place to start. And don't forget that you can contact us by phone or email at anytime for additional assistance, that's why we're here. We love these kinds of questions! (Much better than the questions we get after a situation of abuse.) So, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Sounds like an interesting audiobook, Wendy. Would you recommend for those leading youth in the church? or not necessarily?
The linked document makes for interesting reading, especially as one recognizes how many of these provisions are ignored in our churches today. Many have Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, as explicitly required by the C.O. Many observe Ascension Day on the Sunday before or after. The list goes on. It would be good if some of this were rewritten to be more descriptive and less prescriptive
Super helpful list Elizabeth! We have the Jesus Storybook Bible but none of the others. Had not heard of the book 'My Mama and Me' but think I may end up buying it for my two little ones. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for this Keith. Sorry for delayed response but I'd love to discuss further how you try to be more intentional with your tithing (and make it sure it is not just the crumbs). I would love to hear your ideas! Maybe a new post even?
Extremely late on the reply, Adele, but I'm just checking out Sarah Wells book The Family Bible Devotional. I really like the format of the devotional (short scripture readings, background info, and discussion). Simple and engaging! Curious, did you end up buying? Wondering what ages this might suit best.
Amen! These three go together so well. I love how you sandwiched prayer in between patience and persistence (which may seem like opposites but actually go hand in hand).
Hi Karen, et all! We had a chat question come through wondering how to register for this webinar. As an FYI, the registration form is now attached at the bottom of the post or you can click on the link in the body of the post. Thanks!
For more great reading on this topic, check out Five Children's Books That Honor the Body of Christ, an article from Think Christian.
This article has generated a great deal of discussion. The author of this article has provided the final comment (below) and comments are now closed on this post. Thank you for your participation.
I am the woman who wrote the account of sexual assault by clergy at a retreat. When my article was first posted, the last comment feed entry I had read was on Sept. 10 before my husband and I left for an out-of-state vacation for two weeks. I did not take a computer, and for the most part was unplugged from technology during the time we were away. Imagine my surprise when I returned home and read the continuing comment feed in response to the article. My intent with sharing the incident and aftermath, as requested by the Safe Church Ministry, was to engage dialogue, and inform others of the difficulty with holding perpetrators accountable. It seems that goal was accomplished.
I used the term sexual assault because that best fits the description of what happened to me. According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual conduct or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” In 2009, Emily Austin founded Violence Against Women, a global project. Ms. Austin describes sexual assault partly as “contact with genitalia, breast, buttocks, or other intimate body parts” (www.self.com/story/sexual-assault-definition). For those interested in a word/description search, i.e. abuse, assault, misconduct, or harassment, assault is the best description of what happened to me that day.
After reading the entire feed, I would like to thank each responder who read and responded empathically to the information as presented.
Jane, your responses on August 30 and other times were insightful, accurate, and challenging.
MJillH, for identifying that nowhere is it indicated that the perpetrator thought he was being humorous. I knew he was not being humorous. Also, your reference to your being abused was an invaluable part of the posts. However, I experienced Roger’s post of September 22, in regard to the abuse you suffered, as lacking empathy.
Angelyn, for removing an inappropriate post from the feed.
Bonny MB, for identifying and refuting victim shaming and that reporting was inaccurately labeled as gossiping.
Bart, for reminding everyone about the importance of the #MeToo movement.
Kelly, for your extensive input regarding confronting abuse on its many fronts, faces, and facets. Statistics are helpful, challenging, and yet disappointing. Education, accountability, and change are slow and tedious but so necessary. Your incidents of being abused when you were a young man no doubt left a negative impact. Although research shows that fewer males are abused than females, the shame and hurt are no less significant for them.
Bev, on September 15, you referenced porn and the high percentage of pastors who struggle against porn use. This is a very important issue which must be confronted. This topic would be in itself worth discussing. I have witnessed individuals, families, churches, and businesses destroyed by someone’s porn use. On his September 26 post Roger states, “I do recognize that in general the male psyche is different from that of a woman’s when it comes to sex. Hence the preponderance of interest in pornography by men in comparison to women.” His comment minimizes the dangers of porn use. A husband’s porn use is the ultimate insult to a wife feeling loved and safe in their relationship. The same damage to a relationship occurs if the wife uses porn.
Eric VD, for your attention to detail on September 14, details do matter.
Frank, your pondering how to counsel your children regarding the abuse subject was integral to the discussion. I much prefer a male with your kind spirit over against an educated male with issues of entitlement. Your reference to Article 11 of the church order was appropriately applied.
Safe Church Ministry: Bonnie and Eric, for your continuing support of the process of confronting abuse on all fronts in our churches. Also, for clarifying that the Office of Abuse Prevention began in 1994, a year before the reported incident of assault. Also, thank you for asking, and thus challenging me, to allow the incident to be printed and exposed to discussion and feedback.
Finally, Roger, there was no intent on my part to seek punishment or retribution against the male, married, perpetrator. I was only interested in his being held accountable for his inappropriate assaultive behavior. My husband was not at my side at the time of the incident but was well aware of what roadblocks would be incurred. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to pursue the situation. I told him, “No, I don’t want to, but it needs to be done.” If I had sought punishment or retribution I would have requested that the elders’ recommendation be sent to me in writing. I would have also monitored whether the recommendation was carried out. In retrospect, why did the elders not inform me that the recommendations had changed?
Several years later I was informed by a reliable source, who knew the situation and outcome, that his credentials were never suspended. I wonder who and what silenced that person for so long. I still recall the sick feeling in my gut that day. At that time I still had all the written correspondence regarding the incident, I chose not to seek further information or reopen the case. I had had enough and that is when I termed the elders “the old boys’ club.”
There is not another side to the incident, the perpetrator admitted it, tried to silence me, and refused to ask forgiveness. I did not incite the assault and I was not dressed provocatively. My belief is that his grand ego would not allow him to apologize to me, a woman. I knew him for fifteen years before the incident and he had decades after the incident to contact me if he had wanted to change or revisit the results of the situation.
In case you have any concern, I am not bitter or depressed and do not need therapy about this incident. I do, however, remember it as if it happened yesterday, that is the power of an assault. I have not left the CRC. I served for years on a classis Safe Church Team and sat on an Advisory Panel. I know what I am talking about and also know many of the persons at the top of the CRC power chain. I am very aware how some clergy with substantial power have protected other clergy from consequences of questionable behaviors and possible abuse toward others.
I am a retired LCSW psychotherapist who enjoyed a very successful career. During that career I listened to accounts of abuse of a variety of types. Many patients and family members’ lives were negatively affected by the abuse of someone else. I also listened to the angst and regret of abusers. The number of persons whose lives and relationships were destroyed due to alcohol and drug use in attempt to self-medicate anxiety, PTSD, depression, and/or suicidal tendencies resulting from any type of abuse is astounding.
Finally Roger, if you wrote your responses as an antagonist, you played your part well. If you really believe all you wrote about this incident and the results of it, my heart hurts for you.
I would like to end the post feed with the following: the letter S is in each of the words linked to deviant sexual behaviors: abuse, assault, misconduct, and harassment. Let’s cut to the chase and use a very short word instead: SIN
As Bev so aptly stated in her last post, “This is our watch.” My hope and prayer is that the Christian Reformed Church will be a beacon of light in the darkness of that watch.
There are two other areas that apply equally to young adults and to all of us.
1. Pornography. Today's culture is saturated with pornography. I can't imagine a fall session of young adults, students -- probably all of us -- without a serious, biblical treatment of pornography. Genesis 2 and the treatment of male and female as God's image-bearers can't be stressed often enough.
2. Technology. We are an inter-connected society. We literally have the "whole world in our hands" as the old song goes. While we regularly preach the importance of sabbath rest from our work, we also need to build in sabbath rest from technology ... whether that is turning off our cell phones and emails for an hour or two a day, an entire day on the weekend, whatever. Do we control technology or does it control us? During Sunday worship, young adults/students are encouraged to turn their cell phones ON: mute the calls but open up the Bible app when it's time to read scripture.
Just a note that they are probably post-millennials. I'm currently listening to the audiobook Generation iY and it is surprising how much difference there is in this newest generation (Z).
Fleetwood CRC in Surrey, BC is working on one. We have an initial draft and are fine tuning it before we present it to Council. Church Juice was very helpful.
Thank you Eric for these helpful suggestions.
This is great Keith! I was actually thinking the same thing before you responded. For that age group, an apologetics class is really a great idea. It can ground them in the reasonability of the faith and also equip them to defend and also go on the offense and tear down any argument that comes against the Word of God.
At a PCA church I attended several years ago, we would get a group of college students each summer from Campus Outreach (similar to RUF, Cru and other collegiate ministries) and I had the opportunity to teach a class on apologetics and I used John Frame's (RTS prof) Apologetics to the Glory of God and also Four Views of Apologetics. It was a lot of work because it wasn't in a teachable format, but the material was great. I lean toward the Presuppositional camp (Van Til) but I think it was great to show that all the different approaches can be beneficial to the believer.
I also liked Tim Keller's Reason for God, which seems to be very approachable and not too over the head for most readers. There are some weak points for sure and Keller can be both great and also a little to ambiguous at times, so its not an overall endorsement. But because he is a pastor in a big city, he deals a lot with millennials and so I think he is very shrewd in his approach.
Hope your study goes well! Blessings.