By Rev. Michelle Foster
Four children die every day because of it.
Every 10 seconds another child experiences it.
At least one person in your congregation is or has been the victim of it.
What is it? Child abuse.
It occurs at every socio-economic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. The effects of it are life-long and invade every aspect of a victim’s life. What is the good news in all of this? We can and are doing something to address the problem.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is an excellent time to focus on the problems of child abuse. Children need to be taught to know the difference between good and bad touches. Pparents need to learn the scope of child abuse and what to look for in their own children. Teachers, pastors, grandparents anyone who cares for and loves children needs to understand the problem, their role in addressing it and what we can do as a community of faith to minimize the possibilities of children being abused.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than to sit with a child and their parent(s) after abuse has occurred. The pain and the wounds are truly too deep for words and the ripple effect of that pain in the family and community is intense. Here is an opportunity for you to be pro-active … to involve yourself now before a situation arises and causes such grief, mistrust and woundedness in your community. Be a part of a solution. Here’s how:
• Host a child abuse education program. (I, along with any number of pediatricians, social workers, etc., would happily lead this event.)
• Celebrate and make known to the congregation what your local church is doing to protect children from abuse while in the care of the church
• Offer a Safe Sanctuaries workshop to motivate people toward action
• Proclaim April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and build teaching opportunities around that theme.
• Become educated about the work of Wesley Community House in Meridian. It is one of our United Methodist community centers that specializes in ministry with victims of child abuse.
• Offer any several different child-oriented coloring books and teaching tools specifically for children on this subject as a gift to children in your community.
• Promote better parenting by offering a seminar just for them focusing on discipline, anger management and child abuse.
• Consider a preaching series focused on Christ’s teachings regarding children and the faith community.
We cannot eradicate child abuse in a one month effort. We may not be able to effect statewide education and change. We can make a difference. We can save at least one child from the horror and pain abuse inflicts. We can and we must.
I hope you will join with me in welcoming and honoring Christ as we truly welcome and honor the children that God has entrusted to us.
Foster serves in the Mississippi Conference Connectional Ministries office working with ministry to children and families.