We have all seen parents abruptly terminate conversations with other adults to keep an eye on their children. Children can wander about easily. They could get involved in acts that are detrimental to themselves. Parental instincts, often reflected more in the mother, is one of those protective gifts that ensures children are kept safe.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Psalms127: 3-5. ESV
One summer afternoon on the west coast of Tasmania, my children, then aged 5 and below, regularly played with our neighbour’s children in the front yard. One such afternoon, I sat inside the house with complete view of the yard, watching them. A small bus pulled over and parked in the carpark in front of the house – we lived close to the West Coast Railway Station then. I noticed two men step out of the bus, stood for a while focused on the children, watching them and talking to themselves. I thought these guys must be wondering what these African kids were doing on the west coast. For those who may not know, Queenstown is a beautiful town on the highly forested West Coast of Tasmania. It is a tourist destination, rich in history. At the time, there were only 2 African families in the town. One of the men got into to the bus and stepped out with a camera. This was 2008 and smart phones were not quite as universal. I quickly left what I was doing and jumped out of the house. I confronted them in a manner lacking the hospitality due tourists. They apologised and said they had not taken any photos. I remained outside until they left. The children were totally oblivious to what was happening. I had no way of guaranteeing there were no pictures of the children on their camera. I could not prevent them from taking photos from the comfort of their car. But at least they knew I did not give consent, I told myself.
The great watcher is God himself.
The Lord watches over you
the Lord is your shade at your right hand
I am thankful that our children had the opportunity to attend the kids church in Legana. November 2010, I was in Queenstown Tasmania, working the final months of my 3-year contract while trying to settle my family in Launceston. I couldn’t fully understand the excitement in my wife’s voice when she called to tell me she had found us a church, until I was able to attend the church service in person. The demographic was great – we saw young families right through to great grandparents all under the same roof. The worship was great, the message was great. People were friendly and welcoming. The church seemed to have something for everyone. With time, I would begin to understand the heart of the pastor and the leadership especially as it concerned children. Pardon me if this comes across as a promotion for Legana Christian Church or Pastor Andrew Corbett’s leadership. In Legana, “child safety” is regularly taught, preached and spoken about. When you come to Legana Christian Church, you will realise the pastor’s office and administration offices all have glass doors and you can see inside those offices from the foyer. The creche and Children’s Education Centre have glass doors. Children are encouraged to speak up if they feel uncomfortable by what someone says or does. Every person with roles in the church must hold a current “Working With Vulnerable People (WWVP)” card – organised through the Tasmanian Government. Every leader must have a current ‘Certificate of Completion’ of “Keeping Children and Vulnerable People Safe” training course organised by ChildSafe – a harm prevention charity. While I make no claim to perfection, it is fair to say that Legana Christian Church is and strives to remain a ChildSafe church.
A few months ago, I was amid renewing my mandatory ChildSafe training course when I heard the sickening news of a Childcare worker who had abused hundreds of children across multiple Childcare centres, in different states and jurisdictions over several years. Ashley Paul Griffith, 45, was charged with over 1600 child sexual abuse material. As a society, we would consider this man an experienced expert in early childhood education, having worked in the childcare sector for decades. He was in a position of power and authority. Position of trust. I felt sick to my stomach thinking about the damage he had caused. This child educator and carer, the person kids run to when hurt or needing comfort while in care, has failed the parents and community who have entrusted him with such privilege and responsibility. Why? Why? were questions I asked.
Talking to leaders who were more concerned about power and greatness, Jesus warned about the danger of causing children to stumble or lose their faith.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 18: 5-6. ESV
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 18: 10. ESV
Here Jesus seems to be saying it’s a far greater evil to cause little ones to sin.
When we fail to protect and provide a safe environment for kids, we are surely displeasing the Lord. When we fail to do so in the context of being the responsible adult or child expert, it hurts God even more. One wonders if hurting God may be one of the many reasons why satan targets children.
Jesus is clearly against abuse of children and the vulnerable by those in power. The memories of shocking child abuse uncovered by the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse will not fade away easily. The painful damages done in the past by churches, schools – government and non-governmental, sporting clubs and community organisations calls for more vigilance today.
As the body of Christ, committed to obeying His teachings and representing Him to the world He died for, our churches need to not only ensure children are provided for, protected, and kept safe, but be seen doing so. The Lord expects nothing less.
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
5 Things We Need To Do To Break Our Church’s 200 Barrier, Premium Audio
Apologetics Part 1 – Introduction To Apologetics, Premium Audio
Apologetics Part 2 – The Apologetic Arguments For God, Premium Audio
Apologetics Part 3 – The Apologetic Arguments For The Bible, Premium Audio