Abuse aftercare resource available to churches

As more stories of sexual abuse involving evangelical churches and pastors — including the Southern Baptist Convention — come to light, SBC leaders have recognized the need to be responsive and educated in caring for those within their ministries who disclose abuse experiences.

LifeWay Christian Resources, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and those working with the SBC Sexual Abuse Advisory Study have collaborated to do both — respond and educate — to produce “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused,” a free multimedia resource geared toward church staff members, lay leaders and volunteers.

Now available at ChurchCares.com, the new resource is a comprehensive training curriculum that combines a handbook with 12 video lessons from experts in the areas of social work, law enforcement, trauma counseling, abuse counseling, legal services and pastoral care.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the release of this crucial resource,” said SBC President J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.

“I’m so proud of the work our [Sexual Abuse Advisory Study] group has done in an effort to make our churches a safer place. We need to learn from their expertise in this area, and this material is a fantastic place to start,” Greear said. “We have commitments from national entities, all six seminaries, all state conventions and our associational leadership fellowship that they will integrate these teachings. While education is not the answer to this problem, we want to eliminate ignorance as an excuse.”

LifeWay’s B&H Publishing Group developed the handbook, which is intended for participants to use in tandem with the training videos. The handbook is offered as a free download or can be ordered as a printed copy. 

“We’re honored to partner with the SBC Executive Committee, The Summit Church, the [Sexual Abuse Advisory Study] group and the ERLC to help develop the video curriculum, website and book for ‘Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused,’” said Jennifer Lyell, LifeWay’s director and publisher for the books ministry area. 

“We look forward with prayerful expectancy to how God is going to use these resources to help churches fulfill their crucial restorative responsibility to biblically address sexual abuse and represent the heart of God to care for those who have been victimized,” she noted.

The video sessions are offered through Ministry Grid, LifeWay’s online leadership and volunteer training tool. Lesson topics include: 

— Gospel implications of a church’s response to abuse

— Ministry responsibilities when the abuse is against a minor, versus when the abuse is against an adult

— Pastoral care after reporting

Brad Hambrick, who has been a pastor of counseling for more than 15 years and has counseled more than 100 abuse cases, served as general editor for “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused.”

He believes this resource can not only help church leaders care well for abuse victims, but it can also give a sense of safety to anyone who reveals to church leadership that they have been abused. 

“There’s nothing more devastating than going to a place of trust expecting to get help in the aftermath of abuse and to have that mishandled — or worse yet, to be harmed in the process of reaching out for help,” said Hambrick, pastor of counseling at The Summit Church.

“If we are going to be faithful shepherds — if we’re going to care well for the people God has brought to our churches — then being a good steward of their trust means knowing what to do and how to respond to represent Christ well in those moments when abuse is disclosed.” 

Visit ChurchCares.com to access the free handbook and videos.

— Joy Allmond is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.