Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused (churchcares.com) is a training experience designed to equip the church on how to respond well to the initial report of abuse. This free resource brings together top experts in the areas of social work, law enforcement, trauma counseling, abuse counseling, legal advisement, and pastoral care. Its purpose is to help pastors and ministry leaders equip their churches to be able to provide excellent care in the initial stages of receiving a disclosure from someone who has experienced abuse.
The twelve lessons may be viewed online. You have to provide an email and set up Ministry Grid account. There are no charges for any of this.
Lesson 1 – Ministry Context: The Church’s Response to Abuse Is Grounded in the Gospel.
Lesson 2 – Ministry Tension: Matthew 18 Complements (Doesn’t Compete with) Romans 13
Lesson 3 – Ministry Responsibilities: Abuse Against a Minor vs. Abuse Against an Adult
Lesson 4 – Ministry Partners: Awareness of Key Professionals in Victim Advocate Roles
Lesson 5 – Key Responses to Sexual Abuse
Lesson 6 – Key Responses to Physical Abuse
Lesson 7 – What Happens When You Call CPS? Don’t Avoid What You Don’t Understand
Lesson 8 – Non-Criminal Forms of Abuse (Verbal and Emotional)
Lesson 9 – Pastoral Care After Reporting: Reporting Is Not a Ministerial Hand Off
Lesson 10 – Pastoral Care and Correction for an Abuser
Lesson 11 – Response to Abuse by a Church Leader
Lesson 12 – Seven Next Steps After this Training
A few comments on the training:
Lesson 1 is a general introduction and features all of the trainers.
Lesson 2 on Matthew 18 (church discipline) and Romans 13 (calling authorities). The training proposes church discipline as the solution to the problem of abusers moving from church-to-church. This is unrealistic in my view and has a big church cast to it. The median SBC church is 70 on Sunday morning.
Lesson 3 is on handling abuse reports and allegations relative to minors and adults. This is probably the most valuable lesson in the series. I’d view it two or three times.
Lesson 4 and ministry partners. Get to know local child protection services people and other professionals and have an understanding their role, legal limitations, and duties. This is a very good treatment of an important matter about which many clergy are ignorant.
Lesson 5. Aside from reporting and fulfilling the legal mandate about abuse of minors, this lesson explores considerations many clergy have not considered about abuse victims and their experience. Excellent.
Lesson 6, physical abuse. Simply summarized: “(1) believe the victim, (2) connect the victim to experienced resources, and (3) help them create a safety plan.”
Lesson 7, What happens when CPS is called? At no level of SBC life did anyone ever explain this. Quite helpful. When should you call CPS about abuse or neglect? Many clergy have been conditioned to see CPS as an adversary in my experience. Understanding and education can correct this.
Lesson 8. Non-criminal abuse, emotional abuse, controlling behavior, spiritual abuse. Quite helpful.
Lesson 9. Pastoral care. Pastors are usually looking for help in this area.
Lesson 10, Pastoral care and correction of an abuser. Simple repentance or something more substantive?
Lesson 11. Response to abuse by a church leader. Sad to say. Churches have been deplorably deficient when one of their own staff is the abuser. Two questions: Is the abuse criminal? Were the victims adults or minors? “Manipulative repentance” is covered.
Lesson 12. Next steps
The training series totals almost five hours of online viewing. My initial reaction to the training was that it would be more useful if it wasn’t so lengthy but after viewing it I’ll set that aside and say that this is an extremely valuable, comprehensive training. None of this was offered or required of me during my three years of seminary long ago.
My church uses (at my suggestion and offer to implement it) MinistrySafe. It is much shorter, focused on child sex abuse, and is fee-based. I recommend it. Becoming a church that cares well for the abused is a comprehensive tool that covers much more than child sex abuse. The ERLC training is available through the online training app Ministry Grid. It is totally free. MinistrySafe is set up so that a church staff member has a dashboard that shows people who have been assigned training. It’s easy to track. Becoming lacks this feature, unless I missed it.
There is far more to Becoming than I can cover here. It will, and should, require a considerable investment of time.
Many thanks to the ERLC and others who have put this together. It is excellent.