Some books you just don’t want to read, but you sincerely need to. Deepak Reju’s new book on child abuse was such a book for me. On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church is a book that few will necessarily want to read or enjoy reading, but one that should be required reading for anyone in any level of ministry in the local church.
Deepak Reju is the Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, where Mark Dever serves as the senior pastor. He has been a contributing author to a few books on the topic of biblical counseling, but this is the first book that he has been the sole author of (other than a children’s book on the kings in the Bible). And it is a much needed one.
As you read the book, you will become quickly aware that the church is a very vulnerable place, and child abusers attack that vulnerability. Sadly, but truly, many churches hear about child abuse cases throughout the nation, even in churches, but still think, “It could never happen at my church.” Sadly, it’s just not true. It can. It most certainly can.
“Sexual offenders are not dumb. They are deliberate and calculating. The very thing Christians see as strengths — love for others, a trusting disposition — perpetrators see as weaknesses on which they can prey … Why do you think that sexual offenders try to infiltrate churches? Because many know that most churches don’t even bother checking criminal records. They’re too busy. They’re small enough that they feel they know everyone. They don’t think that convicted sexual offenders will come to their church. Why bother checking criminal records when the person is a nice, respectable guy?” (9).
So how is the book structured? There are three sections in the book. In Section 1, Reju lays out the nature of the problem, the incredible responsibility that we as parents, pastors, and leaders have to protect our children, some of the false assumptions we make, etc. In short, the first part is just laying the foundation, showing the reader that this is a problem in our world, and this is a danger for our churches. We must not take this lightly. We must not think it couldn’t happen to us. The minute that we think that is the minute that we are at our most vulnerable.
In Section 2, the author offers 8 strategies for protecting against child abuse. This is the meat of the book, in that it helps churches take concrete, practical steps in making their church a safer place for children. The 8 strategies that Reju offers are:
- Creating and Implementing a Child Protection Policy
- A Check-In and Checkout Process
- Screening and Verification
- Building Design
- Training Your Staff and Volunteers
- Preparing Church Leaders, Parents, Children, and Teens Before Abuse Happens
- Getting to Know the People and Resources in Your Community
Finally, Part 3 offers the church 3 strategies for responding to child abuse. The simple fact of the matter is that as churches, we can (and should) do absolutely everything that we can to prevent against child abuse; however, with the sinful world that we live in, we will never be able to protect perfectly. So the church needs to know what to do and how to respond if a case a child abuse were to happen. And how does the church counsel and help the congregation as a whole and the victims in particular in the wake of a case of child abuse? All of these things are covered in Part 3.
Then at the very end of the book, the author offers some very helpful appendices with guides and examples related to the 8 strategies offered in part 2. These include a guide to writing a child protection policy and an example of a screening application. These will serve as some helpful, practical tools for a church to begin to implement some of the strategies laid out in the book.
The topic of child abuse is one that disturbs me, as it should. as I was reading this book this last week, I came across the video below, which you may have already seen, that even further brought the need for this book home to me. Now this is not in the context of a church, but it is an illustration of just how easily it is for our kids to be lured away by predators
Honestly, this book disturbed me. It was hard for me to read. But it was incredibly good for me to read. As someone who is about to become a parent here in the next week or two, it terrifies me to think about this sort of abuse potentially happening in my church. I have to admit: I would be among those that would (wrongly) think, “I know it happens … but not in my church.” This book definitely opened my eyes to be a better informed and alert parent and pastor. And for that, I am incredibly thankful for this book. Thankfully, we have quite a few of the strategies that the author recommends in place at our church. But that does not mean we are perfect, and we need to constantly be on guard to make sure that we are protecting our children at our church as we are called to do. And so do you.
I would encourage you, if you are a pastor or ministry leader of any kind, to not only get a copy of this book for yourself, but for your whole pastoral and leadership team. This is a serious matter, and one that we cannot (and should not) put off for one more day. We have been given an incredible and weighty responsibility to protect our children. This book will be a great resource for you as you seek to do just that.
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank New Growth Press for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.