Why the Church Has a Responsibility to Protect Children

Previous articles considered the rate of childhood sexual abuse and how abuse impacts children and adults. Now, we ask what is the church’s role in ensuring protection to children and their families? To answer this question, we will consider a brief theology of care of children and then will look at how the church can provide effective protection for the safety of children.

What does Scripture say about care for children?
The Bible gives a clear pattern for how the world should work. In God’s design, children are to grow up in a safe environment where they can learn about God. Big people, like parents and adults who work with children, are to be loving and caring and to help little people grow up to be healthy, responsible adults who follow God with all their hearts.

Passages like Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 78:5-8 tell of the importance of parents passing their faith along to their children. These children grow up and, in turn, pass their faith along to their children.

Mark 10:13-16 relates a time when Jesus was in Judea, well into his ministry. Individuals were bringing their children to Jesus. The disciples believed it was not the best use of Jesus’ ministry for him to spend time with children. They actually rebuked parents for bothering Jesus with their little ones.

When Jesus saw the disciples doing this, the New American Standard Bible says he was “indignant,” telling the disciples to “permit the children to come to me.” In commenting on this passage, S.D.F. Salmond states that the word indignant conveys both wrath and grief. Jesus was both angry and sad that the disciples failed to recognize the importance of children.

The importance of safety and care for children is also evident in Matthew 18:1-6. As Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of heaven, he called a child and presented the child to the disciples, instructing them about the importance of childlike faith. Jesus concluded his discussion by saying, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Children were important to Jesus. It is impossible to consider these and other passages and conclude care for children is unimportant.

Big people are responsible for caring for little people. Church leaders and ministers are responsible for creating a safe environment where children can learn and grow in Christian faith. Abuse is antithetical in every way to this care for children, and it is imperative that ministry leaders do all they can zealously to provide a safe environment for children.

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SOURCE: Baptist Standard, Scott Floyd