Church leaders play a key role in the resolution of the child sexual abuse pandemic because all areas of prevention and restoration fall under their realm of responsibility. It is therefore crucial that leaders in the church understand the vision for all components of God's plan outlined on this site including Intercessory Prayer, Preventing Abuse, Reporting Abuse, Speaking From the Pulpit, Survivor Support, Offender Discipleship, and Healing Prayer. This will empower you to raise up those within your congregation who are gifted in each area, ultimately creating a broad and deep program that protects our children, supports those who are impacted, and adheres to the law. Church leaders include pastors, priests, reverends, vicars, ministers, deacons, preachers, church council members, board members, missions directors, chaplains, overseers including bishops/cardinals, and all other church members in senior leadership roles.
Intercessory Prayer Ministers
God's word calls us to not only pray for the saints but it urges us to pray for all people, without ceasing. God has anointed people in the body with the gift of intercessory prayer and these prayer warriors are at the center of God's plan for fighting the child sexual abuse pandemic in the spiritual realm. His word says, "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matt 18:18 NIV) The Kingdom is in dire need of intercessors who are led to make this pandemic a focal point of their ministry, engaging in relentless prayer, and wielding God-given weapons that have divine power to demolish strongholds. Intercessors may already lead a team, feel called to start a team, feel led to join a team, or simply to pray individually. All of these roles are valuable and welcome in God's plan!
Children/Youth Program Leaders
Church leaders who are responsible for programs that serve youth are an integral part of God's plan to prevent abuse that may happen within or through church programs. By virtue of building trusting relationships with the children in their care, these leaders are also a vital part of the rescue team - it is crucial that they understand how to recognize, respond, and report; observed, disclosed, or suspected abuse of any child in their care, whether the abuse allegedly occurred within the church or outside of the church. In fact, clergy and youth program leaders are considered mandated reporters in most states and may be subject to penalties for failure to report to law enforcement or their local child welfare agency. We need church leaders who are responsible for children, to actively participate in the development and implementation of child sexual abuse prevention policies and procedures and ensure all staff and volunteers who serve youth are trained and monitored. Youth program leaders include children's pastors, youth pastors, heads of school, missions directors, camp directors, and any other person who has direct or indirect oversight of child or youth-serving programs.
Twenty percent of the population has been sexually abused and that doesn't count the indirect victims such as siblings, parents, spouses, and children. That means at least twenty percent of your congregation are victims - maybe more as God often calls us in our deepest pain and despair. When an individual is struggling with the repercussions of their own childhood abuse he/she may turn to the church for help. Survivors may struggle with flashbacks, body memories, substance abuse, physical health issues, or psychological issues, including life threatening eating disorders, severe depression or suicidal thoughts. Some may be diagnosed with serious mental illnesses and be needlessly placed on psychotropic drugs rather than addressing the trauma of child sexual abuse. So it is critical for care leaders to know how to recognize a survivor, assess their needs, and provide or refer them to the appropriate resources to keep them safe and provide the long-term care they need.
The church may also be the first place a parent turns when they find out their child was, or still is being abused. This is an emotionally charged time for everyone involved so it is important to have pre-established plans for how you will respond ensuring the safety of the child, abiding by the law, and helping provide for the short-term and potentially long-term physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and financial needs of everyone in the family. These plans are even more crucial if the abuser is a family member. Care leaders may include care ministry directors, lay ministers, recovery leaders, church therapists, chaplains, prayer team members, and all other team leaders or people who have care ministry responsibilities.
Healers and Deliverance Ministers
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." (John 10:10 NIV) and what better way to do it than to steal the sexual innocence of our children and make them believe it was their fault? Since most victims don't tell, the enemy spends the next several decades pouring salt on those open wounds, often giving the enemy strongholds through unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, and agreements with the lies of the enemy. But Jesus proclaimed, “If you obey my teaching,” he said, “you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV) Claiming the truth and power of Christ's death and resurrection through facilitated prayer can demolish the work of the enemy in a survivor's life, bringing them full freedom and the abundant life God pre-destined for them before time began. Healers and deliverance ministers are the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth, to carry out his ministry of healing the brokenhearted and setting the captives free. There is no greater need for this work than in survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse is predictable and preventable when we surround children with knowledgeable and outspoken adults. Parents are called to protect their own children but they also have a unique opportunity to increase the safety of all children by inviting other parents in the community as well as youth-serving organization leaders who serve their children to become educated and actively participate in the prevention of child sexual abuse. Children are often too ashamed or scared to tell their parents that they are being abused. Parents can position themselves as a trusted adult for their children's friends by simply talking about boundaries that stop abuse. Children will sense their comfort with the topic and therefore be more likely to tell.
All believers can intercede with prayers of protection for our children and for restoration of survivors. They can also become empowered bystanders by taking our training in order to learn the risky behaviors that precede abuse and the signs of abuse in children and adults. Lastly, it is important to understand that there are child molesters in every walk of life who are actively working to exploit children - whether it is in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, sports programs, doctor's offices, police departments, or courtrooms. But I also know that those child molesters are surrounded by Christians who are called to do the right thing, not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to boldly stand for the truth and do what Jesus would do to protect his children.