Yesterday I gave a brief review of the SBC, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s new product, Becoming a Church That Cares Well For The Abused:
The churches I served were average-sized SBC churches in the neighborhood of 100 in primary worship. About half of the time I was the single, fulltime clergy staff for the church. I served during the period before many churches of any size had written child protection policies much less any formal training for church staff and volunteers. In time, I implemented all of this where I served.
I am far from being an expert in any area concerning sex abuse in the church but I’ve tried to stay informed so as to keep kids safe in churches I served. I offer my experiences and evaluation of these training products with that as background. Others could do a better job. My perspective is mostly as a single staff, average sized SBC church pastor. Thus:
MinistrySafe is still a good choice for churches. It is a commercial product with a cost. The cost is modest. The training most used is the awareness training which does a good job introducing church volunteers and staff to the subject. More advanced training in specific areas may be added. My church uses the awareness training for all volunteers and staff, while some staff have done the advanced training. Some are warning against MinistrySafe but I’ve used it and have no complaints or issues with it. There are other similar products available. This is the one that has the widest use in SBC churches and entities.
A key feature of MinistrySafe is that it gives the church a place to organize all volunteers and staff in an online dashboard and monitor training assignments and progress. This could be done by whatever staff member or church leader responsible for child protection. Background checks may be incorporated into the dashboard. My church does these separately.
ChurchCares looks to me to be an essential training for church staff and leaders. It is not just an awareness training tool but is a comprehensive training that deals with the broader subject of abuse and the church response to it. It should be seen as complementary to MinistrySafe awareness training in my view. In my three years of seminary long ago, none of this was ever broached by or in any seminary classroom. I’d speculate that ChurchCares will find use in every area and level of SBC life. It is an excellent resource. The people who do the training are highly qualified and respected. Most of them are women.
The training is long, almost five hours. It is free and accessible online. While one can ‘fast forward’ or skip over some of the sessions, why would any pastor or church leader want to not be highly educated and informed on the subject? I advise taking the time and being very thorough about it.
The standard of care for churches in abuse requires policies and background checks. Background checks have little value in identifying abusers and policies have a way of being written then shelved. We have to do a better job and knowing what needs to be done is the first step to making churches safer for children and adults.
While no one would say that the SBC has gotten ahead of the deplorable problem of abuse in churches and by clergy, the abuse study group and ERLC ought to be acknowledged as having done well in creating and making this product available. It will not help you and your church, though, unless you use it.
Don’t take my word for any of this. ChurchCares is free. Do it. You could start now and complete it at the pace you can manage.
I have no connection to MinistrySafe save as a used and have never spoken with the principals although, since they will be an exhibitor in Birmingham, I’d love to meet them. Neither SBCV or myself is compensated in any way by MS.