Prevention and Education

There are many steps churches can take to prevent abuse from being a lived reality both within and outside the church. In an age where there is growing awareness as to the prevalence of abuse, it is essential that churches take active steps to address this social injustice and raise congregations to walk in a way of mutual respect. Sadly, the church is not immune to or exempt from occurrences of abuse. Naming this reality, however, means that there is an opportunity for churches to acknowledge areas where they can do better and employ practices that prevent harm and foster safe sanctuaries. Below are a list of ways churches can work to actively prevent unsafe environments and teach healthy forms of relating.

Policy

Safe church policies that consider child protection, clergy sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment are imperative for churches wishing to be safe places. Please see the section on policy for further information.  

Healthy Boundaries Training

For pastors: It is important for pastors to be aware of the inherent power afforded to them in their role as leader. When leaders deny that they hold power it only increases the likelihood that they will misuse their power. One needs to be aware of their power in order to steward it well.

It is essential that pastors are equipped with Healthy Boundaries Training on a regular basis. Denominations must ensure that all their pastors are skilled at navigating the relational challenges of ministry which includes education around: power, boundary violations, gray areas, self-care, self-awareness, healthy boundaries.

FaithTrust Institute trains facilitators and church leaders on a yearly basis:

The MCC offices in Manitoba and B.C. are also able to provide denominations with healthy boundaries training for pastors. Please contact us for more information.

For volunteers, Sunday school teachers, and youth leaders: While child protection policies offer guidelines around appropriate boundaries when working with children and youth, it is essential to go deeper and understand the power issues that underlie the relationships between adults and children, youth, and other vulnerable people. To better equip adult teachers, volunteers, and leaders in their ministry, churches must offer on-going training in issues of power and healthy boundaries.

Education and teaching

Churches must be intentional in creating environments where respectful, God-honouring relationships are fostered. We live in a culture that overloads us with information regarding the nature of relationships. If churches are unwilling to talk about healthy relationships, consent, and respect, individuals will certainly receive their education elsewhere.

Our culture perpetuates its fair share of unhealthy myths around the role of men, women, sexuality, and abuse. It is important for our churches to talk about sexuality and healthy relationships in ways that empower individuals to live out kindness and respect and that celebrate the gift of sexuality.

Education on these topics ought to start young and is important to for all ages. Below are a list of age appropriate topics to cover and resources that can be used. While some of these resources are written for school or university settings, much of the content can be adapted for a church setting. If you know of a resource that would be a good addition to this list, please contact us.

Children ( age 6-12)

  • Healthy boundaries and bodily autonomy
  • Assertiveness
  • Honoring ourselves and one another
  • Internet safety and media messaging

Circle of Grace
Body and Soul
Respectful Futures Facilitation Guide
Talking to Kids About Sexual Violence

Youth ( 13-18)

  • Media messaging and gender stereotypes
  • Internet safety
  • Dating violence and healthy relationships
  • Sexual harassment, bullying and what we can do
  • Toxic vs healthy masculinity

Created by God: Tweens, faith, and human sexuality
Body and Soul
Nurturing Healthy Sexuality at Home
Drawing The Line
The Mask You Live In
Healthy Relationships Educator’s Toolkit

Adults

  • Sexual violence awareness and how to respond
  • Understanding intimate-partner abuse
  • Healthy relationships
  • Healthy boundaries in life and in the church
  • Toxic vs. healthy masculinity

Bible Study Resources on AbuseCarol Penner
Bruised Reed and Smoldering WickA six week study of trauma-informed ministry and compassionate care for children from hard places and situations

For leaders

  • Responding to disclosures of abuse
  • Creating a trauma-sensitive church
  • Healthy pastoral boundaries
  • Understanding dynamics of intimate partner abuse

Preaching

A central platform for speaking into the lives of church members is through the weekly message or sermon. Speaking about and providing spiritual reflection on the realities of abuse sends the message to congregants that the church IS a place to speak about these painful experiences. If nobody in your church has ever discussed their experience of abuse, it likely means that they have not received permission to do so.

The church ought to be a place that shines a light on the painful and dark aspects of life so that hope and healing can be experienced. The first step is always acknowledgement. Here are some suggestions and resources on how to preach about these topics:

  • Invite a counsellor to speak about healing from abuse
  • Host an evening session on hope and healing from abuse
  • Teach and preach in ways that are sensitive to those who have experienced abuse. See “What Does the Bible Say” or “Created Equal” for ideas on how to speak to scripture passages that are sometimes interpreted to justify abuse or the marginalization of women.
  • Be careful how the topic of forgiveness is presented. This can be very confusing for those who have experienced abuse. Be cautious of sending the message that to forgive means to accept violence against oneself. See ‘Forgiveness’ for further comments on how to make sense of forgiveness in light of abuse.
  • Be careful about how language is used in preaching and worship. […use inclusive translations like the NIV, NLT, or NRSV]
  • Teach and preach on equality and mutuality between men and women

100 messages on sexual violence – Sojourners
Troubling Texts: Domestic violence in the Bible – Sojourners
Sermon Outlines on Domestic Violence – R.A.V.E

See worship resources for more ideas on how to lead services on the topic of abuse

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