Published on December 21, 2015 by Todd Scacewater

New Growth Press, 2014 | 208 pages

Reviewed by Bobbette Hatteberg

Despite the difficult and serious topic of the book, On Guard is a wealth of information and it was very easy to assimilate the content into my local church’s Children’s Ministry. I am thankful that our founding pastor had the insight over 20 years ago to set up many of the protection strategies suggested in the book. At times, I have wondered if our Children’s Ministry policies were restrictive and burdensome. However, after reading this book I am grateful for their protection and more intent than ever to consistently apply them.

I doubt anyone would disagree that we should work to protect children from child abuse in every setting. The church has a God-given charge, responsibility, and privilege to protect and shepherd children under its care. But a statement made early in the book captures the reason preventing child abuse is especially crucial in the church. Reju states, “Every good authority reflects God; and every bad authority speaks a lie to children about God and who he is.”

The book highlights the sobering statistics of abuse today and warns about the four false assumptions we may make in the church:

  • It will never happen to us
  • Sexual perpetrators are monsters, and not anything like us
  • We know the people in our church
  • Our church is safe for our kids.

The book warns that sexual offenders will take advantage of our assumptions.

On Guard also discusses the types of sexual predators and the techniques they use to gain trust in a setting such as a church. As a children’s ministry director, this is an area where I need to keep my “eyes wide open” and never assume we are safe, even with good child protection policies.

The second section of the book covers 8 strategies for protecting the church against abuse:

  1. Creating a child protection policy
  2. Having a check-in and checkout procedure
  3. Membership being the prerequisite for all volunteers
  4. Screening and verification of all volunteers
  5. Building design considerations
  6. Training for staff and volunteers
  7. Preparing leaders, parents, children, and teens before abuse happens
  8. Getting to know the people and resources in the community

In my local church, we have already been practicing all of these strategies to one extent or another. However, I think reading this book has given me some insight into areas that may need to be reconsidered or developed more deeply.

The book closes with strategies for responding to abuse including the reporting of abuse, how to assist and help the victim, and how to respond wisely to the perpetrator. While we’d all like to think we won’t ever need these chapters, preparing beforehand can assure a godly and wise response to abuse if it happens.

There is a wealth of information in the appendices including policy suggestions, training materials, screening suggestions, and how to talk to children about abuse. I have considered for some time a need to help parents be more prepared and more biblical in the training of their children regarding sexuality. Several of the materials in the appendices would be helpful in this area. Churches which have health care professionals in their membership will also benefit from their involvement in this aspect of parental training.

On Guard is a valuable book and an important resource for churches, today. I recommend it be read by pastors, elders, deacons, and staff members, especially those who oversee children’s and youth ministries.

Bobette Hatteberg is the Children’s Ministry Director at Cornerstone Community Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, where her husband Scott serves as an elder. Bobette is a Certified Biblical Counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and a former music therapist. She also serves as teaching coordinator for Cornerstone’s Motherhood Connection, a ministry for mothers of preschool children. Bobette and Scott have two children, Alyssa and Adam.

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On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church

New Growth Press, 2014 | 208 pages

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