Book Review: On Guard

Review by Gary Sobbing

“Ministry worker on sex offender list.”

“Abuse victims sue church.”

“Junior high girl seduced by youth pastor.”

If these aren’t actual headlines, they easily could be. How do you prevent your church from being part of the story? Or how do you respond if you already made the news? More importantly, how do you protect the children whom God has entrusted to your ministry?

The author of On Guard is associate pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Section one of the book introduces readers to the problem of abuse. Sections two and three enumerate strategies to both deal with and avoid the fallout of abuse. The appendices (which encompass nearly a quarter of the total pages) include basics on writing a child-protection policy, sample forms and summaries of special issues that did not fit elsewhere.

You may have heard strategies for preventing and responding to abuse, presented by church insurance providers. Here, however, they are presented from a pastor’s heart—the pragmatic infused with scriptural motivation.

For example, Reju highlights a church whose leaders asked for forgiveness from victims after admitting they did not do enough to protect children. The church had been discouraged from taking this step, which raises the question: Is it more important to protect ourselves legally or to show Christ’s compassion on those who suffer abuse while under our care?

Whatever the situation in your church, this book can benefit your ministry. A church without a policy will find everything necessary for building one, while a church with a policy in place can assess its effectiveness. I plan to share with our children’s ministry workers some of the material on the profiles of abusers and why they target churches. Sadly, in today’s world, it is not a matter of if your church will have to deal with the issue of child abuse, but when.

Gary Sobbing is an elder and the Awana Commander at First EFC in Boone, Iowa. He writes, “I deal with this issue in Awana and am gearing up to do some training with those who work with children and youth.”

Review by Judy Crockett

Risk management is an issue for every church. When it comes to the protection of minors, churches must be diligent in their policies and practices to protect their children, to protect their volunteers, and to protect the church against legal liability and the tarnishing of the gospel in their communities.

As a children’s ministry director, I have been the point person on these matters for 22 years, accessing every resource I could find. On Guard is well-organized, clearly written and easy to follow. Reju goes beyond the prevention aspects and includes chapters on dealing with victims, abusers, the congregation and the media in the event of an incident.

I disagree with a few of Reju’s statements. For example, he states on page 50, “The main point of children’s ministry is … to facilitate the parents’ ability to participate in the services of the church without having to worry about their children’s protection and care.”

The main point of children’s ministry is to bring children to Jesus, to partner with God’s Spirit in forming Christ in them. Protection is an important contributor to that goal.

Reju offers a number of resources. For background checks, I would also refer you to First Advantage, which offers low pricing for nonprofits. Brotherhood Mutual offers its resources online. And some counties allow you to sign up for email alerts when a sex offender moves into your area.

Judy Crockett is children’s ministry director at Lakeland EFC in Gurnee, Illinois, and has had experience both thwarting a possible predator and unraveling abuse allegations. “As a result of reading On Guard, I have revisited and improved our child protection policy. My advice on putting your own policy into writing is to be sure you can do what you are saying, as there could be liability risks with publishing a policy that is not adhered to.”

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