It never fails.
Every time I speak before any group about A SILENCE OF MOCKINGBIRDS, someone will approach me, usually quietly, and confide one of the following:
- They were abused as children
- They have a grandchild who has been abused
- They have a friend or family member who is being abusive with their children
- They know a child that was abused and/or murdered
Most of us have read about the horrors of abuse but most of us are completely unaware of the magnitude of the problem — 20,000 child abuse fatalities over the past 10 years, right here on US soil. To put that in perspective, that would be like waking up tomorrow and finding out that everyone in the town I live in was murdered overnight. And the neighboring community to the north and south of me.
Most of us want to do something to turn the tide.
The question is what? What can, should we do?
I think the church ought to be taking the lead on this terrifying epidemic.
True religion demands it of us.
- Offer parenting classes to the community. Eighty percent of all child abuse is perpetuated by biological parents. Abuse is most often committed by parents in their 20s & 30s. They obviously need some coping skills. Scriptures encourage the mentor model of older to younger. Let’s get some experienced parents, thoughtful, considerate people to teach some very basic parenting skills and open the doors of the church to the community.
- Offer a parents’ night out. We are a mobile society. That means many of us live long distances from family members who might otherwise offer a much-needed break from parenting. Let’s step into the lives of these parents of young children and offer them a respite. Give them a quiet evening to enjoy one another, to relax, or to get the grocery shopping done.
- Partner with community groups like CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) to raise up volunteers who will come alongside abused and neglected children.
- If you have creative skills or handyman skills, volunteer with the local child abuse assessment centers to supply them with baby blankets, stuffed animals, children’s furniture, etc. You can find the local child abuse assessment center in your community at National Children’s Alliance by clicking here.
- Join forces with other churches in your community and form a pool of legal experts willing to help educate those caught up in child abuse cases. Many grandparents are dealing with issues such as how to get custodial rights. Hold community-wide educational opportunities for those who are caring for abused children.
- Partner with therapists and educate the community on how to identify child abuse and what steps to take, how to make a report of possible abuse, and how to address the fear of getting involved.
- Go back to basics. Hold classes to teach people how to be a better neighbor, how to build community. We are becoming more fractured and isolated as a society. This isolation increases the chances for abuses to go unreported.
- Take up a collection once a quarter and donate it to the local domestic violence shelter, or child abuse assessment center or child advocacy center.
- Do a sermon series addressing the topic of marriage and why living together is not the healthiest choice for children. The more sexual partners a parent has the more likely the child will be exposed to someone who will abuse them, or the more likely it is that the child will be neglected. Neglect is the primary form of child abuse. We need to teach single parents that moving in with someone three or four weeks after meeting them poses danger to children.
- Offer a place of healing prayer for those who have suffered abuse.
- Challenge your congregation to step forward as foster parents. While it may be more sexy to end human trafficking overseas, we are commanded to care for our neighbors. When Pastor Francis Chan learned about the crisis in child abuse and lack of foster homes in his community he issued a challenge and over 200 people stepped forward to become foster parents. We don’t have to leave our communities to serve. What better way to offer hope?
- Recognize that child abuse is a great evil. Educate yourself about the insidious ways in which it is destroying our country. Choose a book to study (I can recommend one.) Pray from the pulpit for abused children, past and present.
Have you seen other ways that this problem is being addressed effectively? Do you have ideas about other ways churches can do intervene? Do you know someone who is taking the lead on this issue?