It has been a long time since I’ve graced my own website. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes, from having sick kids to working on some huge projects to still maintaining my full-time ministry where I preach. While I’ve not been writing much here, I’ve been producing a lot of material behind the scenes, and that takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. A few months ago, I co-founded Church Protect, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to offering churches resources that I wish were available at the time I had to turn my own father in. My partner and I offer consultation for churches who are navigating the turbulent waters of abuse within their churches. In addition, we offer several different packages for seminars, and this is where I’m most excited. We’re working on a Protection Plan that doesn’t currently exist. My partner with Church Protect has thousands of hours counseling sex offenders in state penitentiary. He also has decades of experience counseling victims of sex abuse, so he has been on both sides of the fence. He has seminary training. So, we believe we have the best fit for making this meaningful ministry the best resource available that is specifically for churches.
We are working on developing Church Protect’s website, and since we don’t have money to hire a web designer (hint, hint, wink, wink), we are developing our own website, too. I’m no web designer, so the amount of time being pumped into this is painful (no pain, no gain, right?). It has a long way to go, but we are confident that the end result will be invaluable. We are offering online seminars at the same time that we do live seminars (select seminars only), so that anyone anywhere can join us without having to travel to see us. We are very excited about this option! It’s going to be impossible to manage 2 websites, so my blogs from this site will eventually be migrated over to churchprotect.org. It will take time, but it will happen fairly soon.
Church Protect really started based solely on demand. Much to my surprise, when I started this website last fall, I was receiving a super high volume of requests to help churches walk through suspicions/allegations of abuse. That spigot has not turned off. This is a vast problem within churches, no matter the size. We began Church Protect, Inc. as a way for church leaders to reach out to a minister who not only had to deal with allegations of abuse, but the abuser was my own father. I had zero training and had to take a crash course on how to help my congregation navigate this. Some of the questions I wrestled with over the course of 2 or 3 days were–What are the legal implications? What are mandated reporting laws and how do they apply to me? Will dad find out that it was my mom and me who reported him? How do I tell my wife? How do I tell my church? When do I tell them and how much do I reveal? How many victims are there? Will I get fired? Will I have to move my family to another town? Will people think that I knew about his abuse over the years but kept it quiet? Will the media descend upon the church and my family? Will this be national news? Will dad be arrested right away? How and when do I tell my family that dad is a pedophile? How will my congregation be viewed in the public eye in our community? What do we do if dad shows up to church after being turned in? How do we find out who his victims are and how do we help them come to grips with what has been done to them? Will the church, or should the church provide counseling for victims? Where is God in the middle of this? How could God let this evil go on for so many years? How did my family not see this? How will I get up and preach on Sunday? (the abuse was disclosed to me on a Friday). Will we be sued as a church? What do we do about a policy? Is this really happening? Am I going to be OK? How will I provide healing for my family and church when I don’t even know if I can get out of bed myself? Why? Why? Why? Will our family fall apart?
It became apparent really quickly that (1) this is VERY common in churches and (2) hardly anybody is talking about it. Within a month of my dad’s arrest, I was immersed in books from the top professionals in this field. I literally became an expert in the field of child sex abuse within months. My marriage suffered tremendously. At one point my wife asked, “Why are you subjecting yourself (and us) to this?” I wept. The only answer I could muster was, “Because I have to know how I missed it.” She is gracious and as understanding as I think she can be. Without her I would be lost. She is amazingly supportive of this ministry.
I went into ministry because of my dad. As hard as this is to imagine, I am preaching where he preached for 27 years. Every Sunday, my feet literally stand on the same patch of carpet that his did when he preached. He was a hero to me. And within seconds, everything I ever thought I knew about him was instantly dismantled and I didn’t know why or how. Sadly, I’m not alone. Without hesitation, it’s time we step up and do something about it. I speak, consult, and train from expertise, but experience has become the greatest instructor. And the teacher is brutal. I’ve never had a teacher who is more unforgiving than Experience. And so, I pass that on to the many, many people who are struggling to know how to detect and prevent abuse while keeping their churches together. I couldn’t do it without the support of many of you. I receive private messages of encouragement. You have no idea how far that carries me. So, in a nutshell, that’s what I’ve been up to! Stay tuned for more. . .