Pastors and church leaders play a crucial role in creating communities that are safe, respectful and nurturing. It is therefore essential for church leaders to be self-aware and have healthy personal boundaries. It is also important for them to model and actively encourage mutuality and partnership between men and women. These qualities, along with the skills and tasks listed below, all contribute toward helping congregations and families become abuse-free.
Skills and knowledge for church leaders
- Understand the biblical basis for mutuality between men and women.
- Identify signs of a healthy relationship and signs of an abusive relationship, with special attention to relationships where there is an imbalance of power, such as between men and women, adults and children, congregational leaders and laypeople.
- Identify elements of healthy sexuality and actively promote this in the congregation.
- Know the steps to be taken when a child discloses abuse, and when an adult discloses abuse.
- Be aware of the consequences for survivors of sexual violation and/or intimate partner abuse.
- Understand why it is essential to refer survivors and perpetrators of abuse to counselors with specialized training.
- Understand why couple’s counselling is not appropriate in situations of abuse.
- Be familiar with your denomination’s policy regarding sexual misconduct.
- Identify why pornography use is harmful and dangerous.
- Prepare a list of reputable counselors in your area who specialize in abuse dynamics.
Tasks for congregations
- Promote healthy relationships in families and the congregation in Sunday School, worship times, pre-marital counselling, church membership preparation.
- Implement child protection policies and procedures for your congregation.
- Provide safety, support and healing in tangible ways for survivors of abuse, including sensitivity to how sermons, songs and prayers may affect those suffering abuse.
- Develop a support, accountability and healing plan for those who have been abusive.
- Offer and lead rituals of lament, healing and hope which respond to abuse, in both private and corporate settings.
- Place Home Shouldn’t be a Place That Hurts brochures in washroom stalls. Brochures are available from MCC.
- Have resources in your library that can help survivors of abuse.