Key component in a system of resources on child sexual abuse for policy makers, survivors, educators, and advocates.
By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.
Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.
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Spiritual Sounding Board was invited to participate in the Litfuse “blog tour” for the recently released Child Safeguarding Policy Guide. They asked us to post a one-paragraph summary of our overall response to this resource book, so that could be used as an excerpt on other sites. Here is what I wrote:
How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.
Available reviews of the Policy Guide share about its concepts and content from a variety of angles. Already posted on Amazon are great summaries, detailed insights from church leaders, poignant personal accounts from survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Litfuse Publicity Group has review excerpts and links to full posts, and New Growth Press, which published this book, has additional endorsements.
In this post, I will give a brief preview of key features from a systems perspective, and list other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In a follow-up post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers.
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A Brief Review – The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide
The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide was written by Basyle (Boz) Tchividjian of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) and Shira M. Berkovits of Sacred Spaces. They have provided us with an accessible, practical, and manageable systems approach for prevention of child sexual abuse in churches and ministries, and ministry intervention and advocacy where, sadly, abuse has already occurred. Here are some points of analysis about the content, how it’s organized, and ways that it is practical.
1. Multiple Perspectives
The Policy Guide addresses a wide range of core policy-related issues, covering them from theological, legal, psychological, pastoral, social, and organizational perspectives. It also includes a number of personal stories as case studies, and the endnotes share a wealth of additional resources for follow-up study. This reflects a systems approach in analyzing what happens with child sexual abuse, and the many different individuals and institutions that can be affected by its traumatizing effects. Using multiple perspectives gives us the equivalent of a “spiritual MRI.” In other words, it composites a three-dimensional picture from which we can then best understand the people, actions, structures, and impacts interwoven in the situation—and minister accordingly.
2. Straightforward and Compassionate Tone
The material is presented with a straightforward, matter-of-fact tone that is compassionate, solutions-focused, and complies with both ethical and legal mandates. Practical suggestions what-TO-do and what-NOT-to-do is interwoven throughout. All of this is crucial on a topic like sexual abuse where guilt, shame, and fear have tended to dominate discussions—or even to silence people from disclosing or discussing it at all.
3. Excellent Content Accessibility
The Policy Guide is highly-organized and user-friendly for people who best process information in a diversity of ways. Overall, I find it to be well laid out, with a good use of graphics, charts, box texts, lists, and other visual cues. These are crucial features in a training manual, especially when the content is already intense and the layout could easily be too dense to absorb. (As a training curriculum writer and formerly a publication typographer, these relevant concerns are always on my radar.)
The design makes the material more digestible, the teamwork applications do-able, and ultimately, the policy guide achievable. For instance:
- The material has been broken down into reasonable “chunks” of accessible information with immediate application. There are clear definitions, and concise information frequently appears in bullet-point lists. There is no index, but the table of contents and chapter subheads are developed well, and that will make it easier to reference and access details.
- The regular “Policy Worksheets” break down the work into do-able bits, with practical fill-in blanks, charts, discussion questions, etc. This makes it so teams can also build a policy from scratch by working through that the next piece together.
- These Worksheet sections guide readers through applying the concepts in that chapter, offer sample policy statements, and give important prompts when there may be a need to adjust policy drafts with any necessary legal requirements by which they are bound in their state.
4. Part of a Holistic Set of Resources
This particular book is primarily for those charged with organization policies, implementation, and evaluation. However, GRACE and New Growth Press have published numerous companion pieces. Some are more for those in responsible roles as leaders, teachers, and counselors. Others will reach the hearts of survivors, their loved ones, and their advocates. Still others will equip activists who are called to challenge and change systems to bring hope, justice, and healing. For a listing of these materials and other relevant articles, see section that follows.
Thank you, Boz Tchividjian and Shira Berkovits, for producing this guide our communities have needed—the work you and the Child Safeguarding team invested is an answer to decades of prayer!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary eBook copy of The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries from Litfuse in exchange for writing a review. I also purchased the full Child Safeguarding Package from the publisher, New Growth Press, which included a print copy of the Policy Guide plus the four GRACE mini-books.
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Related Resources from GRACE and New Growth Press
Since we’re dealing with organizational systems and the potential intervention and prevention of systemic abuse, we need a variety of materials. We need policy resources for those in roles of influence within churches, ministries, and other kinds of agencies. We need personal resources to comfort and encourage survivors and their loved ones. We need professional resources for pastors, educators, professors, counselors, and others who will have the opportunity to serve survivors and those connected with them.
Thankfully, GRACE and their publishing partner, New Growth Press, have produced a series of materials for a range of audience needs and types of readers.
Introductory Videos (both posted 2016)
How Can Your Church Become A Safer Place for Children? [2.75 minutes]
How Safe is Your Church? [3.5 minutes; featuring Boz Tchividjian]
Child Safeguarding Materials, Certification Program, Training Course
The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries, by Basyle (Boz) Tchividjian of GRACE and Shira M. Berkovits of Sacred Spaces.
The Child Safeguarding Package (a copy of the Policy Guide, plus one of each of the mini-books).
GRACE’s Child Safeguarding Certification program.
No More Silence: An interview with Boz Tchividjian of G.R.A.C.E., by Rachel Held Evans (March 18, 2013).
On-the-job training isn’t working, by Boz Tchividjian (May 30, 2014; Religion News Service). Background on the then-forthcoming training program and curriculum materials.
BTS and GRACE Offer Historic Seminary Course on Child Sexual Abuse (April 2017; Biblical Theological Seminary press release).
These are the length of about one regular book chapter, in a brochure size (4.25″ x 7.5″).
Caring for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, by Basyle Tchividjian and Justin S Holcomb (2017; 24 pages).
Protecting Children from Abuse in the Church, by Basyle Tchividjian (2013; 32 pages).
The Spiritual Impact of Sexual Abuse, by Diane Langberg (2017; 24 pages).
What the Bible Says to Abuse Survivors and Those Who Hurt Them, by Victor Vieth (2017; 24 pages).
Related Books from New Growth Press
Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores, by Diane Langberg (2015).
Rid of My Disgrace: Small Group Discussion Guide, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb (2015).
God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect their Bodies, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb (2015). Illustrated book for children.