It's hard to describe this new training resource this includes a handbook, videos, and lessons. The resource includes input from a variety of experts in the field and is chock full of information to help churches respond well to those who have experienced abuse. And it's FREE and available online. Note: You can also buy a printed copy of the book via Amazon.
Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused incorporates input from a variety of Christians active in the field of abuse prevention and response, including Brad Hambrick, Pastoral Counselor and Seminary Professor; Rachel Denhollander, Survivor and Advocate Attorney; Diane Langberg, Psychologist, Author and Speaker; Leslie Vernick, Speaker and Relationship Coach; Chris Moles, Pastor and Batterer Interventionist.
The resource begins by outlining key concepts for pastors and ministry leaders to understand.
The first concept is that the church's response to abuse is ground in the Gospel, a Gospel that not only invites the sinner to repentance and forgiveness, but also invites the sufferer to find refuge in the Comforter. Understanding that historically, the church has been more skilled in applying the gospel to sin than to suffering, this resource is based in the good news that Jesus’ ministry to proclaim release to the captives and to set free the oppressed has practical as well as spiritual implications.
Other key concepts discussed are: overlapping civil and pastoral responsibilities, distinguishing responsibilities when abuse involves a minor vs. an adult, and tips for working with key professionals in their roles of providing advocacy to those who have been victimized.
Each chapter or lesson (12 in all) has a video segment that accompanies the material presented. In addition, each chapter is summarized with key points and follow up resources. The final chapter includes practical steps to take to help ensure that your church becomes a church that cares well for those who have experienced abuse.
In each lesson there is opportunity to “Listen to the Experts.” Here is some of what they say about moving forward after completing the lessons in this training.
“I believe pastors and church leaders must play a larger role in caring for victims and holding perpetrators accountable. There are no perfect interventions, you will make mistakes. My prayer is that we will be quick to own our missteps and mistakes, that we will repent of ways in which we have harmed others or revictimized those we are called to serve…” - Chris Moles
“To those of you who have been victimized – some of you by both your abuser and by the church’s response: whenever God’s people fail to speak truth, expose the deeds of darkness to light, and function as a refuge for the afflicted and needy – they have not only failed you but have failed our God as well, for they look nothing like Him.” - Diane Langberg
“I’ve been on the receiving end of very poor church responses, and the receiving end of very good ones …. I cannot stress enough how much damage church leaders can do to a survivor, and to their understanding of the gospel and Jesus Christ, if they do not know how to respond well to abuse and care for survivors.” - Rachael Denhollander
“God does not care more about the sanctity of marriage than He does for the safety and sanity of the individuals within that relationship.” - Leslie Vernick
“In law practice, as a Christ follower, while I often have legal discussions surrounding liability, I always try to point the church to making the safety and care of victims a priority – not because of lability and mitigation, but because it’s the right thing to do.” - Samantha Kilpatrick
“As pastors and ministry leaders, you will undoubtedly enter into dark and difficult places when ministering to victims of abuse. Enter into these places with the power of God that brings salvation. Allow God’s power, through his Holy Spirit, to work through your weakness and bear fruit.” - Karla Siu
May our CRC congregations be willing to make the effort to learn and to understand, so that we can care well for those among us who have experienced abuse.
Synod 2019 has mandated that training be offered to pastors and to church leaders. This is only one resource among many options. Are there other resources that you use to help ministry leaders better understand abuse, and how to care well for those who have experienced it?
Feel free to share those resources with us. Or contact Safe Church Ministry to explore training needs in your congregation and what resources might fit in your context.