Dylan Dodson: Can a Christian Suffer from Depression? My Story

shutterstock_308068409Editor’s note: I came across this post from Dylan Dodson in my Facebook feed. It turns out Dylan’s wife’s (Christina) used to serve on our social media team. We obtained permission through Christina to share it on our blog because I thought it would very much resonate with our readers. Here’s Dylan…

About a year ago I heard a prominent Christian leader whom I respect explain his thoughts on depression. He said that he did not believe true believers in Christ could really be depressed because our hope is ultimately in Christ. He talked about how Christians understand that this life can be difficult, but that in the end we know that Christ will not give us more than we can handle, and that we know in the end that Christ will prevail.

Therefore, no committed Christian should suffer from depression because we know there is more to life than our present circumstances. It did not make sense to him that a Christian could be depressed.

He was wrong.

Now for those familiar with my story, you know that I lost my father to suicide in 2009. However, this is not about him. If I were to be talking about my father then what I am saying here would be more speculation than knowledge. I’m talking about me.

2009 was a horrible year in my life. Five people I knew died in 2009, and obviously none were as difficult to deal with as my father’s death. In the fall I headed back to UNC-Wilmington for my sophomore year, hoping this would help me heal and move forward.

Unfortunately it didn’t. Many other things went wrong when school started back up. I got to the point where I feared each day wondering what bad thing would happen next. I was not happy, I was internally bitter at every single person who seemed happy, and I thought I would never feel anywhere close to “normal” ever again.

I was depressed.

shutterstock_434262010I thought I hid it well, but then people I barely even knew began asking me if anything was wrong. I must have been asked that at least twice a week by various people for about two months. I still am not sure how most of these people could tell I was “different,” they barely even knew me.

I knew many people were praying for me and my family. I was surprised by the people who knew what I was dealing with and truly cared. I was also surprised by some who I thought would care more but hardly did anything.

But how does this prove that this prominent Christian leader was wrong in his views on depression? Because I have never been closer to Jesus in my life than I was those three months that I was depressed.

I read the entire Bible through in about 70 days. I prayed more often and for longer amounts of time. I would be so upset that I would hand write chapters of the bible on notebook paper. I read the entire biblical books of Isaiah and Jeremiah in one day. That was 118 pages of the bible in one day. Bible pages have small print and two columns per page. That’s a lot of reading.

And I was depressed.

Never once did I question God’s goodness in all I went through that year. I never questioned why this happened to me or even if God existed. The only thing I did question was the power or prayer. And through it all, I knew that God was still God and that God was still good. I knew that Jesus was still greater than what I was going through and that he can bring good out of any situation.

I knew all of that. I know God cared, I knew God loved me, I knew God was in control. But I couldn’t help it, I was still depressed.

By the end of the year I began to come out of it by the grace of God. I was still a long ways away from feeling any kind of “normal” again, but I was slowly getting better.

If you are a follower of Christ and for whatever reason have fallen into depression trust me, it will get better. I like the following quote that says,

It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stay there.

Pain and grief were emotions created by God, you should not feel guilty for feeling them. Being depressed does not mean you no longer love Jesus or that Jesus no longer loves you.

If you need help, get help. Do not stay “stuck.”

And to the prominent Christian leader, and no doubt others, who believe that firm believers in Christ should never be depressed, you’re wrong. I’ve been there. I did not chose it, and I did all I could to get out of it. But for a while there was nothing I could do to change it.

So yes, Christians can suffer from depression. And in the words of David Crowder who wrote a song I listened to over and over in my depression:

In joy and pain. In sun and rain. You’re the same.

Oh, You never let go.

You never let go.

You never let go.

***********************************************************************************************************                                                                                                              Staff-Photos-for-Web-6303

Dylan Dodson graduated from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington in May of 2012 with a B.A. in Religious Studies, and from Liberty University with a M.A. in Religion in December of 2013. In February 2012, he and his wife helped plant a church in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he served as an intern for two years. He is getting ready to plant New City Church in Raleigh, NC in January, 2017.

Dylan’s book, True Pain, True Grief, and a True God, details his experiences in going through and dealing with the loss of his father to suicide in 2009. Dylan’s loss is a driving force for him to share Jesus in broken and hurting world. Dylan looks forward to seeing his father again in heaven due to his faith in Christ. Check out his blog.


Posted in Depression, Hidden Disabilities, Key Ministry, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are kids with disabilities more welcome at the Cavs’ victory parade than at church?

JR Cody 2The last seven days have felt like the best week ever for many in our home region of Northeast Ohio. Our Cleveland Cavaliers completed an epic comeback in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors to win the first major championship for a Cleveland team in 52 years. Given our city’s history of soul-crushing disappointment in athletic endeavors – the subject of an ESPN movie – the celebration by three generations of Clevelanders of the end of “the curse” was truly one for the ages. An estimated 1.3 million people (including your author) descended upon the city last morning for what was for most of us a once in a lifetime victory parade.

One moment in the midst of the victory parade received much attention in our regional media. A nine year old boy using walking crutches as a result of spina bifida was attending the parade with his father and brothers when he was spotted in the crowd by one of the Cavs’ most “colorful” players – J.R. Smith

J.R. has a long and storied history of challenges with self-control. This interview with J.R.’s daughter on SportsCenter pretty much sums it up…

“I’m just proud of him because he made the championship without getting kicked off the team”

The victory parade last Wednesday wasn’t the first time that J.R. has used his celebrity to bring focus and attention to persons with special needs. Here’s a video describing J.R.’s relationship with Brad Hennefer, 2014 Special Olympics gold medalist golfer and inspiration for the Golf for Life Foundation

I had staked out a spot at the beginning of the parade route and made my way home to see the last hour or so of coverage on TV. I found myself pondering the similarities and differences between the worship of the team that ended our long championship drought and the worship our family experiences at church nearly every Sunday. It’s a little disconcerting to realize that a far higher percentage of Northeast Ohioans were at that parade Wednesday morning than were at church this past Sunday. It’s safe to say that the enthusiasm of the crowd at the parade was considerably higher than that of the typical churchgoer this past Sunday.

636023025704386034-Cody2On the other hand, I found myself thinking that on any given Sunday, most churches wouldn’t use the opportunity of their worship celebrations to intentionally welcome kids with disabilities and their families or to publicly acknowledge their value. J.R. Smith thought to do that for a boy with spina bifida on one of the biggest days of his life. Is it wrong to expect the same from our churches?


KM greenIf your church is intentional in offering ministry to welcome and including families impacted by disability, we’d very much like to connect and and include your church as a resource to families from your area who connect with us through our website, blogs and Facebook communities. Tell us a little more about your church and and the ministry you offer if you’re interested in partnering with us in welcoming families impacted by disability seeking to connect with a local church. To learn more, click here.

Posted in Key Ministry, Special Needs Ministry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eight Outreach Events to Target (and Bless) Special-Needs Families

Our new church plans to be special-needs welcoming from the beginning. We see special-needs families as an unreached people group we plan to target. And like missionaries, we are taking the “go and engage” approach instead of just “come and see.”

Family Watching Film In Cinema

Family Watching Film In Cinema

Here are eight outreach events we’ve come up with to target (and bless) special-needs families:

  1. Sensory-friendly movie – Rent a movie theater for the morning and make it sensory-friendly by turning the house lights up and the sound down. We are also going to have an activity table in the lobby for ours in case some of our guests need a break from the movie.
  2. Rent out a bounce house – When we lived in Pennsylvania, we were in an autism support group that invited us to a local bounce house every month an hour before it usually opened. Our son loved it! In the new town where we live, there’s a bounce house owned by a pastor and a church meets in the building (they deflate them all for church services). They offered us a discount to rent it for a couple hours on the weekend. We have that planned for next month and plan to invite families who come to our sensory-friendly movie to join us next month at the bounce house.
  3. Respite night – If you have a church building, this is a great way to reach new families. It takes planning ahead of time to train volunteers and make sure you have all the info you need on the kids coming, but they are such a blessing to families. Especially if you can host one in early December so parents can do some Christmas shopping!
  4. Fall festival – Depending on what’s available where you live, you can host a group for hey rides, corn maze fun, or even host a small group to paint pumpkins like we did at our house last fall.
  5. Day of pampering for moms/caretakers – A church in our area in Pennsylvania that had a big disability ministry had a Day of Pampering each year for moms and caretakers. The women who attended got haircuts, manicures, facials, massages, a nice lunch, and got their cars detailed while they enjoyed the pampering. They also had a speaker to encourage the women, worship music, and a blessing of the hands. It was a day I looked forward to each year!
  6. Family photo sessions – It can be hard for special-needs families to get their pictures taken. If you have a photographer in your church or have a friend with this talent, advertise for 30-minutes photo sessions at a local park. Make sure the photographer is patient and knows the parents don’t expect perfect pictures, just lots of options to pick from.
  7. Pool party – Is there a community or YMCA pool you could rent? Or a splash pad? Make sure your guests sign waivers and know they are responsible for their family members, and have lots of fun. You may even rent an ice cream truck or snow cone machine for when your guests need to cool off.
  8. Produce picking (seasonal: strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, apples) – Our autism support group in Pennsylvania did this also! James may have eaten more strawberries than he got in our bucket, but it sure was fun.

We’re doing the sensory-friendly movie this weekend, and the short video we made to talk about the event reached 55,000 people on Facebook and was shared 163 times! Clearly there’s a need for activities like this, especially during the long summer months.

What outreach events have worked for your church? Or, if you’re a special-needs family, what events would you love to attend?

Posted in Key Ministry, Sandra Peoples, Special Needs Ministry | Tagged | 1 Comment

10 ways to be a safe church for sexual assault survivors

shutterstock_385387537In my last post, I set the groundwork for today’s piece, framing the problem. Today, I want to consider our response. How can our churches be safe places for survivors like me, even those who will never disclose their stories?

  1. Talk about it.

I know this can be tricky, especially if children attend your worship services. But there are ways to bring this up – discussing topics like consent, victim blaming, respect for each other’s bodies, and so on – without saying the word rape. And if you’re a church leader, you can talk about it in survivor-supportive ways on social media where younger kids shouldn’t be lurking.

(And? You can set up different friend lists on Facebook so that you have an adult-only audience if you’d like. I did that back when I was a youth leader, knowing I share about issues that the parents of my middle school girls would rather I not put in their daughters’ feeds.)

  1. Believe us.

Three words carry great power for survivors. “I believe you.” Say them. Mean them. And don’t follow them up with “but…”

  1. Give us permission to feel whatever we feel.

God isn’t uncomfortable with lament, so we shouldn’t be either. Some things deserve outrage. Some things need to be grieved. Join us in that outrage, and mourn with those who mourn.

Sometimes we’ll feel other things too. Sometimes those feelings will confuse us. Sometimes they’ll bring shame. Let us feel deeply whatever we’re feeling, without telling us we should feel something different.

  1. Connect us to therapeutic resources.

If you’re not trained in counseling sexual abuse survivors – and most pastors and other church leaders aren’t – be humble enough to admit that. Don’t try to do what you’re not trained to do. Several years ago, I was being counseled by my pastor weekly for some personal issues when I first disclosed the rapes from my past. He immediately recognized the limitations of his training. With gentleness and love, he identified a more trained mental health professional who could better serve my needs, and I began meeting with that therapist instead. The transition was hard, but it was exactly what I needed.

  1. Trust that our lives aren’t ruined.

If you stop to think about it, declaring our future to be hopeless isn’t consistent with biblical theology.    Last week I saw post after post talking about how the Stanford rapist only got six months while his victim got “a life sentence.” No. Her life isn’t ruined, and neither was mine.

  1. shutterstock_278961551Don’t sing songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20).

We need to hear hope, yes. But please don’t try to wrap pretty bows on our messy packages. Dwell in discomfort with us instead of making yourself feel more comfortable with platitudes. Feel with us. Hurt with us. Weep with us. There are times when “I’m so sorry” is far more compassionate than “God works all things to the good of those who love him,” even though the latter is true. And there are times when presence and proximity are better gifts than any words you might offer.

  1. Be aware that pain shows up in hard ways sometimes.

Self injury. Addiction. People pleasing. Promiscuity. Please care first and more about the hurt in our hearts than the actions it’s fueling. That behavior can’t change – not effectively – until we’re healing. Until then, the pain is going to go somewhere. We need you not to turn away from us when it shows up in hard ways.

  1. Remind us that it was never our fault.

If you haven’t lived through this darkness, you might be surprised to hear that we might blame ourselves. Many of us do. This shame is so pervasive that part of the diagnostic criteria for PTSD is persistent distorted cognitions about the cause or consequences of the traumatic event that lead the individual to blame oneself. Even those who aren’t formally diagnosed with PTSD may feel this way. Tell us we didn’t deserve it. Tell us it was never our fault. Tell us the blame isn’t ours to bear.

  1. Understand that some theological wording can wound us.

I know I’m entering treacherous territory here. Please understand that I’m not encouraging you to change your theology. Instead, I’m challenging you to consider how you present it, knowing that the statistics on sexual assault indicate that survivors are in your congregation. Specifically,

  • When you talk about sexual purity, consider how your words might land on our ears. I heard a pastor talk about how you can only offer the gift of your virginity once and felt like I’d have nothing to offer my future spouse. I listened to teachers use metaphors of chewed up sticks of gum and used pieces of tape to represent those who had sex before marriage, and I’m sure they didn’t consider how that felt for girls like me (or anyone who had chosen to have sex, for that matter). I sat through a few Bible study lessons in which girls were told that boys couldn’t control themselves if we didn’t help them by dressing modestly, and each time I tried to figure out how I could have been more modest to avoid what happened.
  • If you preach about how we all deserve hell, understand that we might already believe that for all the wrong reasons. Another part of the diagnostic criteria for PTSD is persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about one’s self. A gospel message that starts with telling us how sinful we are might feel like more like a confirmation of our own self-loathing than the beginning of any good news.
  • When you talk about God’s sovereignty, do so in a way that acknowledges the hard questions that raises for many survivors. Why did God allow this? Why didn’t he intervene? Can I trust a God who could have rescued me from my rape but didn’t? You don’t have to directly address all those questions – and I’d argue that none of us can fully answer them – but be aware of how we wrestle with the idea of an omnipotent God governing our most powerless moments.

And one more: “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Just don’t go there. That’s not sound theology for anyone.

  1. Consider how we’re listening when you talk about sexual sin.

No, our assaults weren’t sinful on our end. But our shame (see #8) lies to us sometimes. When you talk about sexual sin as despicable, we’re listening. And for those of us who showed our pain through promiscuity (refer back to #7), we might not be completely innocent. But? We need grace, not condemnation. When Christ met sinners, he extended mercy instead of shoveling shame.

I know this post was a heavy one. My last one was too. But ministry is messy. If we aren’t willing to engage with heavy topics like these, then we’re leaving survivors to carry them all on their own. And I don’t think that’s what God designed for us to do as the church, do you?


shutterstock_291556127Key Ministry encourages our readers to check out the resources we’ve developed to help pastors, church leaders, volunteers and families to better understand the nature of trauma in children and teens, Jolene Philo’s series on PTSD in children, and series on other mental health-related topics, including series on the impact of ADHD, anxiety and Asperger’s Disorder on spiritual development in kids, depression in children and teens, pediatric bipolar disorder, and ten strategies for promoting mental health inclusion at church.


Posted in Advocacy, Controversies, Hidden Disabilities, Key Ministry, PTSD, Shannon Dingle | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How dads are impacted when kids have disabilities

shutterstock_304270016Several years ago, an interesting study was presented at the International Society For Autism Research suggesting that over 30% of fathers of teens and young adults with autism experience symptoms of depression significant enough to warrant clinical attention. That’s a striking finding. For comparison, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 7% of American men will experience depression in a given year. Examination of contributing factors to the higher rates of depression seen among men with children with autism and other developmental disorders may help us better appreciate what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a father of a child with a significant disability.

Based upon the experiences shared by fathers of kids treated in our practice, here are four thoughts as to why they may be more vulnerable to depression…

The impact of a child with a disability upon one’s career. Fathers of kids with disabilities face a conundrum. Their presence at home may be even more important than it would be if their children were “typical,” given the impact that a child with a disability has upon everyone in the family. At the same time, the need to make enough money to pay for necessary treatments that are partially covered or not covered at all by health insurance is often present. They may have to work longer hours to pay for their child’s medical care. They may not be able to risk changing jobs if the new job provides less comprehensive insurance coverage. They may not be able to accept a promotion involving relocation when a move would result in the loss of access to needed educational and treatment services for their child.

The end result for a father of having a child with a disability may be unfulfilled career ambitions along with ongoing pressures to provide adequate financial support over and above what would otherwise be necessary to pay for costly treatments.

The challenge of providing for your family after your work life has ended. In our culture, the construct that we as men accept the responsibility of providing for our families is so much a part of our identity that when we’re unable to do so, the experience can be psychologically devastating. As the father of 20 and 17 year-old girls who are “typical,” the challenge of figuring out how I’m going to pay for their education is pretty overwhelming. But I assume that each of them will grow up to be independent and self-supporting. What if your child is going to require lifelong care and support? What plans do you have to make in the event you or your wife are incapacitated? Who will care for your child when you’re gone?

Your relationship with your wife may be different than you envisioned. It’s easy for women to invest so much of their time and emotion and energy in caring for and advocating for the needs of their child with a disability that they may not have much left to share with their husbands by the end of the day. You may have very little opportunity to spend quality time with your wife, because of the lack of available child care or the lack of funds for a night out together…hence the need for respite care. You may not get to spend the romantic weekends together that your neighbors and coworkers enjoy. There’s a very good possibility that your sexual relationship with your spouse is going to suffer. There’s also a good possibility that you and your spouse will be more isolated socially that you would be if you didn’t have a child with a disability. Where we live, parents tend to associate with other parents who share a common interest through the activities their kids are engaged in…sports, school, church, scouts, other extracurricular activities. Fathers of kids with disabilities are more likely to lack the networks of supportive relationships that other men enjoy.

You may silently grieve the loss of aspirations you had for your child as well as your inability to share experiences with your child that you dreamed of doing together. In my mind, this may be the greatest risk factor contributing to depression for fathers of kids with disabilities and the factor least likely to be recognized and discussed. If you have a child with autism in which their capacity for social interaction is impacted, that’s a huge loss. Fathers of kids with disabilities may miss out on the experience of walking out on the field with their son or daughter on Senior Night for their sports team, teaching them how to drive, having their child treat them to a round of golf, or having the opportunity to play with their grandkids.

Several years ago, a very successful businessman sat in my office and sobbed when the reality set in that his son wouldn’t enjoy the types of friendships he had enjoyed growing up as a consequence of Asperger’s Disorder. The father was regularly paying for classmates to accompany their son on lavish ski vacations in Colorado or trips to beach resorts for diving and surfing lessons in the hopes that friendships would develop that never developed. Some parents live vicariously through their kids, but we all want our children to experience the things we treasure the most. When they can’t, that hurts.


Rising-FamilyWe encourage churches looking to minister more effectively with fathers of kids with disabilities to check out the resources created by Jeff Davidson and his team at Rising Above Ministries. They offer SOAR, a weekend retreat for fathers of kids with special needs, as well as Connect groups for men across the Southeastern U.S. Explore their Facebook page for special needs dads.

Posted in Families, Jeff Davidson, Key Ministry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Special-Needs Ministry Isn’t Only for Those with Special-Needs

Special-needs ministry doesn’t only take place in a classroom on Sunday morning. It happens in the parking lot, in the hallway, during the service, and even during the week.

Family in love

Top view of white paper chain family on red shape heart. Family in love. Family care and unity concept.

A few months after we moved to Houston, Craig Johnson invited me to take a tour of the Champions Club at his church. He showed me the classrooms that are totally decked out for the kids and adults the ministry serves, but he also mentioned the reserved parking spots for special-needs families. He showed me the desk where parents check their kids in and the volunteers take time to ask how the parents are really doing. He showed me the auditorium where adults and teens with disabilities serve, often as greeters and ushers. And even as we walked across the street for lunch, we met a woman in a motorized wheelchair Craig knew well. They chatted about what’s been happening in her life recently and he said, “Let me pray for you right now.” I was reminded that special-needs ministry doesn’t just happen in the classroom on Sunday morning, and it doesn’t just focus on the person with a disability.

True special-needs ministry ministers to the entire family and takes place every day of the week.

I knew this even when I was a child, growing up with a sister with Down syndrome. Our church in Duncan, Oklahoma had lots of special-needs families attending because we knew we were welcome. When my parents needed to focus on my sister, there was always someone else around to watch me or walk me to my parents if that’s what was most helpful.

When our son James was diagnosed with autism in 2010, we were the only special-needs family at our small church in PA, but the church body loved us well. So well that other families with members who have disabilities started coming too.

The even smaller church we attend now as we prepare to plant a new church is showing us love by agreeing to meet at our house on small group nights, where James feels most comfortable.

Other ideas for serving the entire family:

  • Offer a Bible study/support group. My husband and I wrote a Bible study, Held: Learning to Live in God’s Grip, that churches across the country are using. You could also offer a sibling support group.
  • Have reserved parking spots at church. This is especially helpful for single or spiritually-single moms (married to men who don’t attend church).
  • Do respite nights for special-needs kids and their siblings.
  • Ask open ended questions and keep asking until you get real answers. “Everything’s fine” is probably not true. Be a listening ear when you know a tired mom or dad really needs it.
  • Offer to help if there’s a way the church can help. Maybe with baby sitting? Or a $20 gift card to Chick fil A? Or someone mowing their yard for them?
  • Honor them during Special-Needs Parents Appreciation Month in August. Make sure they know you as a church body sees them and acknowledges their hard work.

We are are all one body, and are called to care for one another:

… do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phililipians 2:4)
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; (Romans 12:10)
So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:10)

Looks for opportunities to serve the families God has brought to your church in ways that will really minister to them. I know what a difference it’s made in my life and the impact it can have on so many families like mine.

Posted in Families, Key Ministry, Parents, Sandra Peoples, Special Needs Ministry | Leave a comment

Why church leaders need to be talking about sexual assault

shutterstock_201736286_1Last week, I wrote two intensely vulnerable posts, here and here, on my personal blog. Both relate to the Stanford rape story, but both also disclose – for the first time publicly – my own history as a rape survivor. Before last week, only 32 people in my life had ever heard that part of my story. Before this year, that number was only 10, 3 of whom were medical professionals.

Why go public? I don’t have a clear answer to offer here, except that now it feels good and safe to be open in this way. Shame can breed in secret. I’ve felt that happen. And silence doesn’t suit me.

For most survivors of sexual assaults, though, sharing this identity in a public arena will never be comfortable. I get that. Our stories are personal and private. No one is entitled to those sacred narratives. That means, as a church leader, you might never know who in your congregation has walk this path.

(Case in point, I served in a significant leadership role for most of the 11 years we spent at our last church. I didn’t tell a single pastor or staff member about my trauma history until we’d been there a decade. At first, I wanted them to know me well before that disclosure. Then, I didn’t know how to bring it up. Eventually, I tried to pretend it wasn’t true at all. That last decision almost destroyed me. God never intended for us to live in extreme denial and dissociation. This is my story. I can’t live in the light while I hide in the darkness.)

As church leaders, we can’t be silent or indifferent to this serious problem. According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men who experience a rape or rape attempt in their lifetime. Of those women who survive their assaults, 70% experience moderate to severe distress, 1 in 3 contemplate suicide, and more than 1 in 10 make an attempt. (I wrote a little about mine in this post.)

shutterstock_35379418Among kids, the rates of sexual abuse are staggering too: 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys. And despite the recent discussions about possible stranger attacks in bathrooms, the vast majority of offenders are known to the victim, with stranger perpetrators only counting for 7% or less than 5% of assaults, depending on the source. In other words, stranger danger is less of a risk than confusing advances from someone known to the child. Among child sexual assault survivors, rates of drug use, PTSD, depression, and work or family problems are higher than the general population.

Finally, sexual assault happens in both churches and Christian families as well. If a child discloses or you suspect abuse, report that information to the proper authorities. The church is not equipped or designed to investigate or prosecute sex crimes. Love the family well, yes, but know your role too.

At church, take safety measures. Background checks for volunteers working with minors are only a start, considering the vast majority of sexual offenders are never caught. GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) is one organization providing trainings and resources for churches in this area. One of their presentations cites Children’s Ministry Resources as reporting 70 child abuse allegations are made against churches in the US each week. Safety measures – ranging from rules about adults never being alone with a child to windows allowing line of sight into classrooms – are necessary, as is training on those policies and on warning signs for abuse.

Clearly, this isn’t a small problem. Ignoring it won’t make it so away. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Let’s act as people of light, refusing to turn our backs on the darkness of sexual abuse and assault.


shutterstock_291556127Key Ministry encourages our readers to check out the resources we’ve developed to help pastors, church leaders, volunteers and families to better understand the nature of trauma in children and teens, Jolene Philo’s series on PTSD in children, and series on other mental health-related topics, including series on the impact of ADHD, anxiety and Asperger’s Disorder on spiritual development in kids, depression in children and teens, pediatric bipolar disorder, and ten strategies for promoting mental health inclusion at church.



Posted in Abuse, Advocacy, Hidden Disabilities, Key Ministry, Mental Health, PTSD, Shannon Dingle | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment