The past year has been an eventful one in our culture. Many Americans have been shocked in recent months as every news cycle presents reports of allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct, or harrassment. The crazy part is that no part of American culture seems to be exempt: Hollywood, elected officials, journalists, business CEO’s, and pastors have all lost their jobs as well as their reputations in recent weeks. The #metoo movement has risen in which women are speaking out about the harassment and injustices they have encountered.
Over Thanksgiving I read the #churchtoo Twitter thread and cried over the stories of women who experienced harassment or worse and the church was more of a help than a hurt. This is not just something that happens “out there” in the world. This issue is present in our churches.
Addressing the relevant topics within in our culture in a Biblical way is part of leading ministries and families that are gospel-centered. How should we help our kids understand how to navigate this part of our culture?
- Teach over and over again that we live in a broken world. Why do these things happen? Why do people abuse others? Why do some men treat women badly? Why do these things even happen in the church? We must remind kids that sin is everywhere and in all of us. When sin entered the world, the whole world broke and will be broken until Jesus comes again. This brokenness impacts our relationships, our homes, and even our churches. These stories are all reminders of how badly our world needs Jesus.
- Our boys and girls both must understand that in the eyes of God, women are equally valuable and treasured as men. The New Testament shows many examples of Jesus honoring women in ways that were counter-cultural, including utilizing Mary to be the very first one to share the gospel by telling the disciples that He had risen. There is not a hierarchy of worth in God’s sight, nor is there a hierarchy of worth in the church. There are different roles in the church and in the family, but different does not equate better or superior. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither… male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
- We must teach what Godly relationships look like according to Scripture. This generation doesn’t have a lot of great examples, even within the church. God tells wives to submit to husbands and for husbands to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:5-7). God has made us differently with different roles, yet Ephesians 5:21 instructs all of us to submit to one another. Let’s teach the Bible’s gender roles for family and in the church in ways that are rooted in honor, respect and selflessness from every person.
- We must teach and model what submission means. Submission does not mean enabling and condoning sin. Submission does not mean saying any kind of abuse, adultery or other sin that is harmful to the spouse or the children is in any way ok. The Bible instructs women to submit to their husbands and instructs all of us to submit to authority. It does not say women should submit to every man they encounter, that men are to be in charge of all women, or that all women must submit to whatever a man tells them to do. These may sound like unrealistic thoughts, but I promise you there are women who have grown up with these misconceptions.
- You must have a plan for reporting suspected or reported abuse. If your ministry doesn’t have this plan and if your volunteers don’t know it, this needs to be a top priority for you. Your plan must include how to protect and to respond to the victim of the situation. Be fair, be loving to all parties, but DO NOT sacrifice your process to protect the accused or try to avoid messy situations.
- Kids must have a safe place where they can know that whatever they have done or whatever has happened, there is grace and there is someone who will help them. Girls so often don’t reach out for help because they are afraid they will get in trouble for something. And if you read much of the #churchtoo feed on Twitter, you will see there might be reason for them to be afraid in our churches. Our churches have a history of condemnation first and listening second. May our ministries model Jesus’s reaction to the woman caught in adultery – grace over throwing stones followed by discipleship to go and sin no more.
- In ministry, strictly enforce the policies you have to keep kids and volunteers safe. No adult should ever, ever, ever be alone with a minor for any reason. Ever. Drill this into the minds of all of your volunteers. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see this policy violated, even if it is not within your area of ministry. It is always better to address it and apologize that you misunderstood the situation. Always err on the side of fighting for the safety of both your kids and your volunteers.
- In your family, have raw and awkward conversations about God’s plan for sex, the beauty of it in His design, and the indescribable worth of your children in His eyes. Do not be afraid to talk about the hard things. Your kids hear these topics on the news and on the bus. Let’s not let the world dictate their beliefs and opinions. Let’s talk about the hard stuff so that they know they can bring hard questions to us.
- Living above reproach is more important now than ever – for both us and our kids. Every social media post, every sermon or teaching given, even every text or Facebook message has the potential to resurface later in life. We must help kids understand that we do online today or what we say publicly can have great ramifications later on. Beyond social media, though, it is even more important to live with great integrity in every area of our lives. As leaders we MUST prioritize the protection of ourselves, our marriages, and our ministries. Having boundaries in place can remove temptations, but can also remove any opportunity for misunderstandings or accusations of misconduct. We need to model for our children how to have safe boundaries in the real world and the online world.
What would you add to this? How are you helping your families process this part of our culture?