As a denomination, we have designated every fourth Sunday in September: Abuse Awareness Sunday. We invite every congregation to plan their worship service, litany, and sermon/message around the theme of abuse awareness. You can view more information about special Sundays in the Church Year Resources website.
Our theme for this year is Safe Church Basics: Five Steps to a Safer Church. We invite you to order bulletin inserts/ flyers for your church here.
To access our 2022 Abuse Awareness Sunday bulletin in other languages please see:
Safe Church Basics: Five Steps to a Safer Church
Do you feel overwhelmed by the task of making your church safe and resistant to abuse? Are you struggling with identifying what more your church can do to prevent and respond to abuse?
Each of the "Five Steps to a Safer Church" are being made into Safe Church Webinars and recordings may be viewed at Youtube.com/SafeChurchMinistry. The links below also link to information about the webinars as well as resources for churches for each of the following steps:
Follow the five steps below to become a safer church.
Assess Risk: Using our new Safe Church Assessment tool, consider conducting a risk assessment that determines how your church can do better in preventing abuse.
Make/Revise Policy: Every church should have a safe church policy that is updated every 3-5 years and that outlines principles for abuse prevention and response.
Screen and Train Leaders and Volunteers: All church leaders and volunteers should know what constitutes abuse, how to spot it, and what is expected of them to prevent and respond to abuse well.
Practice Being Restorative: In restorative congregations, all in the church interact with empathy and respect, listening with one another as they go forward as the body of Christ even amidst conflict.
Respond to Abuse with Justice and Compassion: In safe churches, leaders take allegations of abuse seriously and follow the church’s policy to ensure a just and compassionate response.
Devoting a Sunday to naming, praying, and preaching about abuse is a great way to foster awareness and break the culture of secrecy that allows abuse to go unchecked. This, however, should be done with sensitivity and care, mindful that there are those in your congregation who have experienced abuse (1 in 3 women, 1 in 6 men). To prevent retraumatization, it’s a good idea to let people know the theme for the Sunday a week ahead of time. Additionally, we would encourage worship leaders to take great care in the language used, images shown, and videos played during the service, keeping survivors needs in focus when planning.
Video: consider showing this 3-minute video before or during the service to cast a vision for Safe Church in your congregation.
Sermon Starter: 1 Peter 2:11-12
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Any Sunday is a good Sunday to raise awareness about abuse and to preach against abuse in the variety of forms it takes in this world. Consider preaching from 1 Peter 2: 11-12 (perhaps to verse 17), where Peter is writing to the church that is living amidst the Roman world. The sermon could be titled something like: Living Good lives in a World of Abuse. There are countless stories to choose about pastors and those who are in sacred positions of pastoral power that have not lived up to the calling of godliness that God requires . . . (see more)
Prayer based on the 5 Steps to a Safer Church written by Christian Reformed Church Worship Ministries
This prayer could function as the Prayers of the People for Abuse Awareness Sunday or could be broken up over several weeks as your church follows the 5 steps to become a safer church. We have included the refrain “Teach Us Your Ways” by the Porter’s Gate which is musically simple but textually rich, but there are many songs that could work between the petitions of this prayer. Take the opportunity to learn this new song or choose something your congregation already knows and sings.
Triune God - hear our prayer. God, you are the Creator and Sustainer of all. You created a galaxy so vast we only see it in part. You created atoms and molecules so minuscule we only see them with science. You smelled the flowers before creating them to bloom, and tasted the bounty of the crops before they emerged from the soil . . . see more
Optional songs of response
Build Your Kingdom (Rend Collective)
Open Our Eyes (LUYH #297)