Caring for the Abused
Written by Lindsay King
Sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct run rampant in all areas of society, including the Church, leaving only destruction in its wake. The Caring Well Initiative was started by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) under the leadership of then-ERLC President Dr. Russell Moore and with the support of Summit Church Pastor and then-SBC President J.D. Greear, with the goal of better equipping churches to care for sexual abuse survivors and help prevent future abuse. Over the last several months, Waypoint’s Caring Well Team has been going through the Caring Well training, which includes talks from pastors, experts, and, most importantly, abuse survivors.
It is estimated that roughly 1 out of every 4 people has experienced sexual or domestic abuse. On a given Sunday morning, Waypoint Church has roughly 200 people in service with 70 children in Waypoint Kids. This means approximately 68 of our brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors/visitors, sitting next to us, have experienced abuse! Unfortunately, the Church (in general) has a history of not being a place of refuge for those who have or are experiencing sexual abuse. Instead of protection and care, people find silence, skepticism, and condemnation, further adding to their trauma and pain. And when abuse or trauma happens within the context of a church, the effects on their faith can be devastating.
The training has taught us that sexual abuse is not just evil; it is the worst evil. It starts slowly, continues secretly, and destroys lives. The abusers are often likable and charming people we know; they do not look like monsters or criminals we see on TV. Victims’ stories often come out fragmented and disordered because of the trauma they have been through. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When darkness is exposed, only then can it be rooted out. This side of heaven we will never rid ourselves of the evil of sexual abuse, but we can and must better care for those who have experienced it and reduce the risk of it happening at Waypoint.
Since Waypoint’s Caring Well Team recently completed training, we wanted to provide an update on what you can expect in the coming months.
Strengthening of Waypoint Church Sexual Misconduct Policy. This policy will be all encompassing (covering staff, volunteers, and members alike) and detail our prevention policies, reporting guidance, and dismissal procedures. Waypoint does currently have sexual abuse and harassment policies in place, this document will strengthen those policies.
Expanding of the Volunteer Onboarding Process. Every person desiring to work with children under 18 years old will need to undergo an updated onboarding process.
Updating of Related Waypoint Documentation. The Caring Well Team is reviewing and updating the Waypoint Kids, Youth, Buddy Ministry, and Employee Handbooks to reflect the changes and strengthen policies within each individual handbook.
Additional Training of Waypoint Staff. Waypoint Leadership and Staff, led by Toni Anderson, are reading and discussing the book Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused, which includes the same topics and speakers from the Caring Well training.
Charter and Scoping of Waypoint’s long-term team. Reporting is hard and scary. Victims are afraid to report; bystanders/witnesses are afraid to wrongly report. Waypoint’s Abuse Response & Prevention Team (ARP Team) will include trained individuals who will serve as a point of contact of those who have seen, heard, or experienced sexual abuse, harassment, or misconduct at Waypoint. (This team will not take the place of reporting to Child Protective Services or law enforcement.)
What can you do now?
Pray about joining the Abuse Response & Prevention (ARP) Team now or in the future.
Pray for Waypoint that God would protect our church, help us root out evil, and guide us in caring well for the abused. If you do not believe that sexual abuse is pure evil, watch or listen to one of the survivor stories. The trauma and pain both during the abuse and after they reported is heartbreaking.
Learn to sit and simply listen, without trying to solve. One of the greatest gifts we can give to the people who confide in us is to simply listen and let their experiences, pain, and struggles be heard whether their stories are clear and concise or fragmented and disjointed. For many things we experience here on Earth, including sexual trauma, mental health problems, and “invisible” illnesses, true and complete healing may not come until Heaven. Learning to listen well, without jumping to solutions, is not easy, but it can often be the best way that we can support the people in our lives who are struggling and/or on a path of healing.
The Caring Well Team includes:
Toni Anderson (Waypoint’s Director of Children Ministries), Bethany Clark, Stephen Clark (Elder), Liz Clevinger, Lindsay King, Caleb Thomas (Youth Director)