Two different people, who are in a valuable partnership, wrote this article together. Could a similar partnership work in your church? Tara Aday is the Director of Prevention and Education at Safe Haven Ministries, a faith-based organization in Grand Rapids, MI, with a mission to end domestic abuse. Deanna DeVries is active in Safe Church Ministry as the LiveSafe team leader at LaGrave CRC, also in Grand Rapids.
Domestic violence knows no barriers. A person’s race, income, education or even religion doesn’t put someone outside the purview of this scourge on our society. After incidences of domestic violence escalate, churches often approach Safe Haven. But in an ideal world, leaders in our faith communities would be equipped with the tools to effectively prevent and respond before instances of violence worsen.
We are in a time when churches are wrestling with how to keep members and strengthen the congregation. While times of crisis or fear might push us to silence, we as a community cannot remain so on these issues. In fact, churches are given so much power and authority in caring for the hurt and broken, who better to respond to this issue than our faith communities?
So I ask that you consider these questions, presented below by a recent participant of Safe Haven’s Creating a Safe Haven Church Certification. As you read about the impact this process had on her congregation, consider the importance of understanding domestic abuse, and planning how to respond in your own congregation. If your church would like more information about the value of the certification program to your own church community, please feel free to contact Safe Haven Ministries.
Domestic violence shelters are not only shelters; they often provide many other resources for those who struggle in an abusive relationship. Partnerships with churches can provide wonderful resources and offer more holistic care. Safe Haven Ministries, as a faith-based organization, is an especially good resource for churches both in and outside of the Grand Rapids area.
What would you do if you saw a child in your church nursery with suspicious looking bruises? Would you say something? What would you say, and to whom would you say it? What would you do if you observed a young man in your church youth group slap his girlfriend and grab her phone, or if a friend from church confided to you that she has been living for years in an abusive marriage and just can’t take it anymore? Does your church have a reporting tree or a point person trained to deal with these situations? Do you have incident report forms? Do you know who is a “mandated reporter”, and what it means to fill out a DHS-3200? These are all important things churches must know.
Recently, 12 members of LaGrave Christian Reformed Church spent a full day discussing these and many other scenarios. We were participating in Safe Haven’s Creating a Safe Haven Church Certification program, along with two other churches — St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church.
After previously meeting with two of us from LaGrave’s LiveSafe (Safe Church) team, Safe Haven helped us to draft a comprehensive domestic abuse policy, tailor-made for our church. Our 12-person contingent (made up of LiveSafe team members, youth leaders, and ministerial staff) then attended the training. We are now in the process of finalizing our draft.
We were all impressed with the quality of this training and the professionalism of the Safe Haven staff. Our churches need to recognize domestic violence in all its many forms and have the ability to respond appropriately. This training is offered to any church, and our hope and recommendation would be that more of our CRC churches avail themselves of this very worthwhile program.