This is without doubt one of the most important books local church leaders should read – even if they will not like it. I thank God that our congregation has been spared from the evil of child abuse, but we would be naïve to think that it cannot happen. This is a book that needed to be written, and it is a book that at least someone in leadership of every church ought to read and use as a guide to protect our children, their families, and the congregation from the unimaginable pain such an incident would cause.
In his new book On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse Deepak Reju (Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC) brings the issue to the fore and sets the standard for church preparedness. Today he talks to us about his new book and his dreadful yet dreadfully important subject.
Books At a Glance (Fred Zaspel):
I (FGZ) can think of few problems more distasteful – and certainly more devastating to a congregation – but when I saw your book I was glad for it and immediately got my own copy. Thank you for your work that is so valuable for us all.
Let’s begin at the bottom – how do you define child abuse? And perhaps you could expand on it briefly for us.
Child abuse can be defined as any act or failure to act resulting in imminent risk,
serious injury, death, physical or emotional or sexual harm, or exploitation of a child.
When people think about child abuse, they typically think in terms of doing some kind of harm to a child, like hitting or raping a child. But a person’s neglect to protect the child is just as problematic. If a man is sexually abusing a child and some other family member knows about the abuse but doesn’t put a stop to it, he or she is complicit.
Books At a Glance:
You have clearly thought through this issue well – I’m curious how this came to be such an intense area of study for you. Is it simply your own concerns as a father and a pastor? Are there other considerations that brought you to do this work?
There are a few reasons why I studied the subject and wrote this book.
First, as a pastor who supervises our children’s ministry and youth staff, I was surprised at how little information was available to help us think about preventing abuse in church settings. And what little was available was out of print. I read and studied in order to help our local church think about how to build a better firewall to prevent child abuse.
Second, as a pastor of counseling, I once had a chance to talk to Dr. Salter, who is one of the nation’s leading experts on sexual offenders. I asked her about her thoughts on how churches handle sexual abuse … and well, let’s just say she was very clear on how churches do a poor job in preventing and responding to child abuse. That put an idea in my head that something needed to be written.
Third, and finally, I was at a conference geared at helping churches prevent child abuse, and I was surprised that the only people speaking were psychologists and lawyers, none of whom had ever worked at a church before. They said a lot of helpful things, but they were some things I felt like they didn’t “get” because they were not coming from the perspective of working on the inside of a church. Somebody needed to say something from the perspective of a pastor who spends his days laboring inside of a church.
All of these reason conspired together to make me write the book.
Books At a Glance:
Can you describe for us something of the various kinds of predators that may target the church?
There are two types of sexual predators — the power predator and the persuasion predator. Both wreak great havoc in the lives of their victims. Both are problematic for police, parents and the societies in which they live, and they have very different ways of accomplishing their evil ends.
The power predator takes a child by sheer force. He overtakes his victim by overpowering her and forcing her into captivity. You can think in terms of a child grabbed in a park or a schoolyard, dragged into a car and driven off without the strength or ability to stop the sexual offender.
Bestselling author and risk-assessment expert Gavin de Beker describes it this way: “The power predator charges like a bear, unmistakably committing to his attack. Because of this, he cannot easily retreat and say there was merely a misunderstanding. Accordingly, he strikes only when he feels certain he’ll prevail.”
The persuasion predator uses his personality, charm and influence to convince others that he is trustworthy, and then at the right time strikes to abuse children. You might think about the illustration of a wolf in sheep’s clothing: The wolf intends to harm others but doesn’t want them to discover his plans and so puts on the appearance of an innocent sheep.
The power predator snatches a kid from the church playground and runs off. The persuasion predator takes time to build trust with the church members. As a volunteer in children’s ministry, the persuasion predator works “within” a church. He builds trust with the church community and church kids, and over time, begins to abuse.
Books At a Glance:
You mention that the local church can be an easy target for a predator. Perhaps it would be good for us to hear why that is so.
Consider a few reasons….
Editor’s Note: We will conclude our interview with Deepak Reju on this terribly important subject here tomorrow, when he talks to us about implementing measures in our church to prevent problems from happening.
Buy the books
On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church