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March 31, 2011

Are Churches Leading the Way in Preventing Child Abuse?

What we can do to keep kids safe.

Thirty-some years ago, someone I love was sexually abused by a trusted adult. Although this incident occurred when we were kids, time has done nothing to heal my friend. All it's done is stolen peace, freedom, and wholeness from him. Harboring hatred has a way of eating away at one's soul.

Child abusers are the most reviled people on the planet. Even hardened criminals view child molesters with particular disdain. And so did I. For years I harbored a deep hatred toward the perpetrator who violated my friend in an unthinkable way.

But then over the course of the last few years, I started to wonder whether all my righteous anger was really just a way for me to withhold forgiveness from someone who most certainly didn't deserve it. Could the blood of Christ cover someone as horrible as a pedophile? And if it could, would I ever bring myself to say to the worst of the worst—child abusers—you, yes even you, are saved by grace!

Questions like these are what drove me to spearhead a research project last year for Christianity Today. For nine months, I delved into the dark world of sex offenders. We conducted a national survey to find out what church leaders think about sex offenders—whether they should be integrated into congregations in a compassionate way, and if so, how they do this so no one is put in harm's way. Sex Offenders in the Pew, the Christianity Today story that grew out of the research, looked at how many churches have registered sex offenders attending their services and what they are doing to safely integrate these individuals into the congregation.

In interviewing people like Craig, a former registered sex offender (he violated his pre-adolescent daughter and her friend), my heart was filled with compassion for his struggle and the regret he feels over wrongs he can't ever make right. At the same time I am sickened by people like him who exploit kids.

I applaud churches that are fighting against this natural repulsion and instead reaching out to people like Craig—men and women who have committed terrible crimes against children. It's a hard calling.

The world's a dangerous place—I know this to be true. And sadly, church isn't always a safe haven for our most vulnerable members. But as leaders, we have an opportunity to change that.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. We have a library of resources—downloads, quizzes, training programs—to help you keep your ministry safe.

What's your church doing to keep kids safe? Are you finding safe ways to minister to people with sexual offenses on their record? If so, please comment so we can learn from each other.

Marian V. Liautaud is managing editor of and an editor for the Church Management team at Christianity Today International.

Related Tags: forgiveness, sex & sexuality


I just found out years ago from Billy Graham preaching that they can be forgiven and God can remove the sin. However, that does not mean they should be left alone with kids or cover up like many Catholic Churches.

For several months I have been doing online mentoring with teen age girls. I am shocked to learn that so many have been sexually abused, not only by persons outside their homes, but also by family members. The effects are devastating on their souls. I am astonished to learn that all too many of them are "cutting," and when we get to the bottom of it, it is because they feel useless, worthless, used and discarded, violated. They feel unloved to a heightened degree. They hate themselves and so they cut their bodies to ease the pain.

If anyone reading is unaware, as I was, that this type of self-injury is happening in this modern day, it is happening to scores of young people, boys and girls alike. It is an ancient pagan ritual such as did the Gaderene demoniac.

So where is the Church? I do see that many are taking steps to protect the children when they are on the Church property, but what about the ones who do not come to Church, or the ones who do attend Church but do not go to the nusrery?

I suppose the real concern is to protect the church from a law suit.

There is no mention in almost all the Churches of sinful practice at all, much the less addressing the sin of incest and other sexual promiscuities.

What is the reason for such a disconnect from the Church for what is happening in real life?

My personal opinion is that it is the outcome of thinking that if we mention "sin" or challenge the congregation about their sinful life styles, it will destroy the beautiful picture of a "loving" God.

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God," says the Scriptures. Why don't we let God be Who He says He is, and speak the whole truth and save the souls and lives of many whom God loves?

I we are also afraid the mystery and confusion surrounding sexuality. We know what not to do about it, but there isn't vision for what to do with this powerful drive.
I have been studying -- looking for ways that our non-profit agency can come alongside the Church and the Dept of Corrections and Sex Offender Management Boards to provide services to families of sex offenders (secondary victims of the offense). Would be interested in knowing who else is working in this field.

I think Mary makes a good point that, often in the church, we don't really know know what to do with the issue of sex and we get embarrassed and shy and drop the ball on painting a vision of God's plans for people. Just the other day I was thinking about what a powerful tool shame is in the hands of Satan, and just how little he has to work to mess up people's perceptions about sexual immorality if he can make the church too embarrassed to publicly discuss what godly sexuality looks like. Without a clear picture of God's plans, there is no competition to defeat Satan's plans for sex and we get deviations that are as tricky to handle as child molestation.

I have been in the fire of this. One of the things I see is denial. To see it as a big picture is easier than to come face to face with it. I think as in the world for men to acknowledge it is happening by a man maybe a problem. My ex christian lawyer once told me that men are afraid of being falsely accused of this terrible act so when it comes up their minds question is this poor guy being falsely accused and it stops them from action, as it did my ex attorney...I think education is extremely important but theres a wall of fear and the ugliness of it that stops understanding and knowledge from getting in. I would love and pray that Godly men who have the ear of men begin to teacher on this subject. One of the biggest misconceptions is that children lie about this and or mothers get their children to lie about this. Study after study shows that this is false yet the myth remains. As long as this myth stands the cost is children not being believed and even possibly being sent back to their abusers. If the abuser is a father then we have just legalized sex slavery of the worse sort, incest. This is happening all over America . If a mother stands to try to protect her child the system says she is out to get the father.. Is this what the world thinks of women and mothers? The system will take the child from the mother and give custody to the father. Some of these fathers have criminal records of past crimes against children.. Yeap..and still the child is said to be lying or the mother is trying to hurt their relationship. So the mother has to summit or loose the child to the abuser. Can I ask you to close your eyes and imagine being forced to drop your child off to be sexually abused, pushing your child out of the car because if you do not the child's fate will be even worse. Feminist organizations are trying to change this, but it is God who is the only one , with the Children of God moving to transform this. I believe in this age that there are christians confronted with injustice , up against it, that God has removed his hand in specific ways so that His children can become a voice as there hearts are freshly bleeding. That there are christians in each place , suffering these injustice , as a birthing place for change. Now we also talk about revival or a great move of God..What if these christians are all facing these mountains, crying out for justice , with a mark upon there hearts of fresh fire for the broken, those caught in these oppressions and these children of the most high are calling out for deliverance and change. If God comes and answers these prayers, there will be mountains falling . Can these mountains stand under the Glory of God being released? But then would we not be on fire to share our testimony and knowledge of the fathers heart for where ugliness resides, would we not share with our sisters and brothers , would that not be a revolution ? I am forced to be at the mountain praying and watching having my heart bleed like never before, but I call out come , look and see the mountains of pain and oppression, ask for God to not let you look away and to show you them. Let your heart be made wide like the father's heart and call the mountains down , there are many, many mountains that have been hidden , with hidden agenda's to destroy the very generation that God wants to live through.

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