“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27
April was designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States in 1983. Children Matter Most is committed to raising awareness about the difficult reality of child abuse and to take action to prevent abuse in our communities. Unfortunately, church communities are not exempt from the reality of child abuse. In 1992, the United Methodist Church adopted a resolution aimed at reducing the risk of child abuse within the church. This resolution was created to make church a safe place for children.
Children are vulnerable to abuse because they rely on adults to teach them acceptable behavior. Children may be uncomfortable about an adult’s behavior toward them but believe that behavior is appropriate because it comes from an adult. We must empower children with the knowledge that their bodies belong to them, and they have a right to boundaries. This prepares them to identify inappropriate adult behavior. Whatever a child’s stage of life there are ways to empower them to recognize their own rights to body boundaries. Here are a few ideas.
- Use games and songs to talk about consent. Such as using the game “Red Light, Green Light” to start a conversation about boundaries and consent.
- If there are times when church members tend to offer hugs, use it as a teaching moment one Sunday. Remind children that it is okay to say no, and to offer a handshake, fist bump, thumbs-up or peace sign instead.
- Remind children that church is a safe place to ask questions and share their feelings and concerns. Encourage them to identify trusted adults in the community whom they can talk to if they ever feel unsafe.
The people of Children Matter Most believe that when the most vulnerable in our communities are safe, everyone is better off. We must do all we can to reduce the number of children abused and neglected in not just our churches, but throughout the state of Indiana.