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As a denomination, we have designated the fourth Sunday in September as Abuse Awareness Sunday. While this is the designated day, please observe Abuse Awareness Sunday on a day that works best for your congregation’s liturgical calendar. Learn more about special Sundays at

We invite every congregation to plan their worship service, litany, and sermon/message around the theme of abuse awareness. For more information, and other abuse awareness topics, please visit the Safe Church website

The abuse awareness topic for 2023 is The Power of Trauma-Informed Ministry.  

“But I don’t feel safe,” the woman said while sitting in a domestic violence shelter after leaving her abusive husband. She was protected by a restraining order and the shelter’s bullet proof glass, alarms, and surveillance systems. Safety measures did not matter to her. She was physically safe, but her body did not allow her to feel safe. That is what trauma does. 

And we, as the Church, can no longer say “these things don’t happen here.” They do. We want our churches and ministry places to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe places as feeling safe and being safe are imperative for those that have experienced trauma. 

Being trauma-informed means utilizing a framework to support policies, practices, and procedures that adequately meet the needs for the vast amount of people that have experienced trauma. Let’s use our power to become trauma-informed by using the four R’s*:  

1. Realizing the frequency and pervasiveness of trauma.  

2. Recognizing the signs and symptoms associated with trauma.  

3. Responding by integrating knowledge into policy, practices, and procedures.  

4. Resisting Re-Traumatization, let’s not harm them or their families again.  

*Dr. Tara Boer’s article Becoming a Trauma-Informed Church refers congregations to SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) identification of the four “R’s” of what it means to be trauma informed. 


For a projection image to use during a Sunday Worship, the attached slide was created to introduce the abuse awareness topic. 

If your Christian Reformed congregation would like to order the 2023 Abuse Awareness Sunday Flyer/ Bulletin Insert for free, you may do so here (they are available in English, Spanish and Korean). 

Webinar: On Being a Trauma-Informed Congregation - This was the fourth webinar of the 2021 Series: On Being a Safe Church. We had the honor of hearing from Dr. Dawn Gibson and Pastor Anthony Gibson about how Peletah Ministries pursues ministry as a church and school in intentionally trauma-informed ways. 

Prayer based on the 5 Steps to a Safer Church (written by 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 five steps to becoming a safer church. We have included the refrain “Teach Us Your Ways” by the Porter’s Gate which is musically simple but textually rich. 

Take the opportunity to learn this new song or choose something your congregation already knows and sings. Optional songs of response Build Your Kingdom (Rend Collective) or Open Our Eyes (LUYH #297). 

Video: consider showing this 3-minute video before or during the service to cast a vision for Safe Church in your congregation.   

Additional Worship Resources: 

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 re-traumatization, it’s a good idea to let people know the theme for Abuse Awareness Sunday a week ahead of time. Additionally, we would encourage worship leaders to take great care in the language, images, and videos played during the service, keeping survivors' needs in focus when planning. 

Sermon Starter: 1 Peter 2:11-12 “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 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. Read the full sermon starter here.

Attached Media
photo courtesy of Safe Church

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