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.
Contributors include (alphabetical order):
- Rachael Denhollander
- Mika Edmondson
- Brad Hambrick
- Samantha Kilpatrick
- Diane Langberg
- Chris Moles
- Andrea Munford
- Karla Siu
- Darby Strickland
- Leslie Vernick
Each of their bios can be found at churchcares.com.
Four key emphases
This team worked together with intentionality in order to create the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused curriculum. Here are four key emphases in the curriculum development process.
- We wrote collaboratively. Every team member helped edit the content at each stage in the process. We wanted every section to benefit from the expertise of every member of this team.
- We were focused. In a 12-lesson curriculum, with each lesson being 20 minutes, we could not say everything that needed to be said. We focused on two things: (1) initial responses and (2) getting people involved. Our belief was that if churches start well and get the right people involved, then the collaboration between pastors, social workers, law enforcement, trauma counselors, and other relevant professionals would ensure holistic care was provided.
- We strove to model what we are advocating for. Our team was comprised of the key professionals who need to be part of the care process. As ministry leaders watch the videos, we want them to get a foretaste of the benefits that will come when they speak with comparable professionals in their community.
- We wrote conversationally. We didn’t want to use technical language from various professional fields. We tried to write in ways that ministry leaders talk. Our hope is that by listening to the videos that accompany the handbook, ministry leaders will get a sense for what it sounds like to have uncomfortable conversations with survivors. It is not comfortable to talk about abuse, but it is a conversation we cannot avoid.
Three ways to use this resource
What is the best way to use or study this resource? Here are three ways, listed chronologically, you can use this resource for maximum impact.
- Study: Watch each video while following along with the handbook. As you study, focus both on the content and tone. We need to know what to do, but it is equally important to hear that content shared by people who have had hundreds of these conversations. In ministry moments, we want to represent Christ accurately in tone and content.
- Share: Ministry leaders are encouraged to share particular videos with key lay leaders in their church. This is to ensure that all the key leaders in your church—paid staff and volunteers—know how to respond when someone discloses their experience of abuse.
- Listen: Finally, and this may be most important, invite a survivor of abuse to study the curriculum and share with you what stood out most to him or her. Hearing how these principles would have made a difference in his or her life will cement them in your memory and convictions. Getting to share his or her story with a pastor desiring to learn from and care for him or her can be an incredibly healing experience for the survivor.
Our prayer is the churchcares.com resource will be used by God to significantly improve how ministry leaders—local church or parachurch—care for those who have been abused and respond to reports of abuse. If the church is going to be the refuge that God intends, these are areas where we must grow.