Two years ago, Benjamin Sadler, pastor at Goodview Trinity, Goodview, Minn., attended a seminar on child abuse. Victor Vieth, WELS member and nationally recognized expert on the issue of child abuse, was presenting and shared some sobering statistics—such as one in four people is the victim of some kind of abuse and that victims tend to have a higher propensity toward issues like drug use and promiscuity. “I walked away from that seminar knowing I had to do something,” says Sadler.
He began by addressing the issue of child abuse in his sermons and Bible studies. Soon, members were opening up about their own experiences with the topic. “The reality is that everybody’s broken,” Sadler says. “Everyone’s got a past, and everyone’s got issues. We want this to be a place where people can be honest about that.”
As Sadler brought more attention to the issue, the congregation decided to put a child protection policy in place, which requires background checks for staff and volunteers who will be working with children. “Perpetrators look at churches because they are easy targets; people are accepting,” says Sadler. “This policy lets them know we are serious. We want this to be a safe place for everybody.”
They are also taking this issue into the community. Sadler is part of the Child Abuse Council, a community task force that aims to raise awareness of this issue, and the congregation participates in a program called “Care in Action,” which provides help to families with children in need.
“It’s really good for our members to realize that we’re here to serve people,” he says. “It’s a hard thing for our sinful nature, to help people without expecting anything in return. But there are many people who are giving toward this, and when we have a need we always fill it.”
Sadler says there’s still more work to do—and he hopes other congregations will consider addressing issues like this. “We all have baggage and fear and shame and sadness,” he says. “When you address these issues, it turns your church from a museum for saints into a hospital for sinners. You become a safe place for broken people to come and hear the good news.”
For more information, visit www.freedomforcaptives.com, a website developed by WELS Commission on Special Ministries. The site is geared toward abuse survivors and also offers counseling resources for called workers.
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Volume 103, Number 06
Issue: June 2016
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