Faculty member Julie Lowe will teach “Abuse in the Church” as a new on-site intensive class in January 2016. Julie has been counseling for over 16 years. She has a master’s degree in counseling from Biblical Theological Seminary, is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and is certified as a registered play therapist. She has extensive experience with foster families, adoptive families, and child maltreatment issues.
We recently sat down with Julie (JL) to find out more about this new class.
Why is the topic of child abuse important for the church?
JL: There are many reasons. The first is that abuse has been infiltrating the church. Christians are often unaware or unwilling to admit how common abuse really is. Second, churches are sometimes ill equipped to handle instances of abuse. And being ill equipped can cause additional harm to all parties involved. A growing awareness of what the warning signs are and how to respond will help the church protect children.
Who should take this class?
JL: I recommend this class to anyone who interacts with or supervises ministry to youth, children, or other vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or those with special needs. I will specifically talk about children in this class, but the same principles apply across the board. If you work with vulnerable populations, it’s important for you to think about what it looks like to be protective. I also believe this course will be helpful to pastors, elders, and deacons.
We will discuss this important topic on a practical level. My goal is not to create panic; my goal is that people will leave this course equipped to prevent abuse and to handle instances of abuse that do arise in the context of the church in the best way—a way that abides by state and federal laws, and in a way that ministers Christ’s love.
It seems parents fear stranger-danger more than anything else. Even in schools, children are taught to have greater caution with strangers than those closest to them. Can you explain why it’s equally—if not more—important for children to be aware of inappropriate behavior from adults who are known and trusted?
JL: Research shows that 90% of the time it is someone who knows the child who abuses him. Stranger-danger is a myth. In fact, we need to teach our children and youth about how to talk to strangers—because a stranger might just be the person to help our children in a difficult situation.
We also need to teach our children how to be good observers of behavior. A dangerous person might not always look dangerous. Therefore it is important for us to equip our children to judge whether what a person is telling them or doing is good or bad.
Will the class cover both how to respond to an abuse situation and how to prevent those types of situations from happening?
JL: Yes, that is my goal. One of the prerequisites for the class will be to take the online mandated reporter training. So, before we begin our time together in person, we will all have a better understanding of what our local and federal laws require.
What are you hoping to accomplish through this class?
JL: My hope is to motivate people to take action. I would like to see churches start proactively considering how to sharpen what they’re already doing to protect children and those who are vulnerable. I hope church leaders and members will be of the conviction that their church will be a place that fosters an environment that makes it really hard for it to ever happen. If I get people thinking about scenarios and possibilities they haven’t considered before, I believe this course will be successful in helping them think proactively. For example, “I hadn’t considered traffic flow before. We need to rethink who’s allowed in and out of children’s wing during dismissal and ensure we have good supervision in the hallways, not just the classrooms.”
To summarize, this course will address the following questions:
1. Who is a mandated reporter in my church?
2. What laws do our pastors, elders, deacons, and other ministry leaders need to follow?
3. What happens when multiple church families are involved in an abuse situation? What public information should be publicly shared with the
church when abuse has occurred?
4. What types of screening and requirements should we have for volunteers that go beyond the background checks and clearances required by the state?
Watch this video to hear more from Julie on this important topic.
Note: This course is being offered on-site only in Glenside, PA.Register Now