At the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in June hundreds of churches committed to the “Caring Well Challenge,” an effort to equip churches to prevent abuse and to provide better care for survivors of abuse within their congregations.
The arrest of a man accused of abusing a child while employed as a child-care worker at an Alabama Baptist church (see article here) highlights just how important the Caring Well Challenge is, according to Dan Darling, vice president for communications for the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
“Parents are asking one important question when they come into our churches: Is it safe to put my kids in this program? They increasingly want to know if churches are proactive on this issue,” Darling said.
Churches and individuals who commit to the Caring Well Challenge will be better equipped in two important ways, he said.
“The goal is to prevent abuse from happening as best we can but also to create within the church a refuge for those who are survivors — those who are looking for a place where they can feel love and welcomed,” Darling said.
One of the key components of the challenge is “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused,” a curriculum available at churchcares.com.
The curriculum includes a downloadable handbook and videos from top experts featuring various abuse scenarios in ministry, at church or at school to help leaders understand and implement best practices for prevention and protection, Darling said.
“We wanted to create resources that are easy for churches to implement,” he said. “We didn’t want to put a burden on small and medium-sized churches. That’s why one of the first steps is to build a church safety team and empower them to look at current practices, which is something even a small church can easily do.”
In addition churches are encouraged to send pastors and ministry leaders to the 2019 ERLC National Conference on Oct. 3–5 in Dallas.
This year’s conference will be entirely focused on the topic of equipping churches to confront the abuse crisis.
The lineup of conference speakers includes sexual abuse survivors Rachael Denhollander, Susan Cadone, Megan Lively, Trillia Newbell and Mary Demuth; SBC leaders J.D. Greear, Ronnie Floyd and Russell Moore; Gary Haugen, who helps fight human trafficking through his organization International Justice Mission; and many others.
Several panel discussions are scheduled, including “God Made All of Me: What Your Student Ministry, Children’s Ministry and Parents Can Do to Protect Kids” and “Facts vs. Myths: Understanding Who Child Sexual Abusers Actually Are.”
Some of the conference speakers and sessions will be live-streamed, Darling said. Details about the live stream will be available the week of the event on the ERLC website.
“One of the most serious things churches can do is make sure the church is a safe environment for children. But victims also want to know they will be seen and heard and to know they are welcome in the family of God,” Darling said.
Church as a refuge
“The Caring Well Challenge will give a sense of comfort and peace in the church not just on the prevention side, but also by providing the language and coaching on how to talk to survivors … and how to really create in our churches a kind of refuge.”
For more information on the Caring Well Challenge including links to resources, visit www.caringwell.com. To register for the 2019 ERLC Caring Well Conference go to www.erlc.com/upcoming-events/2019-erlc-national-conference. (TAB)