Those numbers are frightening.
At least one out of four girls and one out of six boys are victimized by sexual abuse.
This summer I read the memoir authored by R. A. Dickey, the thirty-seven-year-old Mets pitcher and Cy Young candidate. He describes how twice he fell victim to sexual predators and the shame and brokenness it introduced into his life. It’ll move you to tears.
He also details how God used a junior high friend and his family to lead him to the grace and mercy found in Jesus. That’ll move you to tears as well.
Stories like his—and the deafening silence of those too traumatized to speak—ought to make pastors’ ears perk up. This is the world we live in. This is what Adam’s fall ushered in. And we have the solemn obligation to run into the darkness and brokenness of what sin has done with words and deeds that speak of the mercy of Christ.
One area that churches must consider carefully and repeatedly is the matter of caring for children when they gather with their parent(s) for worship. Hardly a week goes by without news of yet another allegation of sexual abuse connected with the church. We must be vigilant in protecting these little ones.
Heritage Bible Church in Greer, SC recently addressed this issue in an all-adult Sunday school class. They have served us well by freely posting the audio online.
The bulk of the session features Julie Hartman, current president of the South Carolina Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators, a board member for Greenville First Steps, and Department Head for Early Childhood Education at Bob Jones University. Abe Stratton, the Pastor for Youth and Young Adults, bookended her presentation with specific steps that the church is taking as they move forward.
Even if you’re well-versed in the topic, you’ll benefit from Dr. Hartman’s presentation. She gives helpful counsel on defining sexual abuse, defining volunteer screening policies, and reporting suspected abuse. It’s a great forty-five minute overview that details steps churches can take to care for our children.
One plan Abe introduces is to make use of Protect My Ministry, a third-party organization that conducts background checks on prospective children’s workers. If you’re a pastor, it’s worth your consideration.
No one delights in dealing with this topic. But we must. As parents, pastors, and Christians, we cannot wait until a child is victimized before thinking and acting to protect these little ones.