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Deepak Reju -Establishing an Effective and Safe Children’s Ministry

By September 7, 2022September 8th, 2022No Comments

This Sunday, hundreds of thousands of parents will drop off their children at the children’s ministry of a church. And hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours will have been spent in preparation, but is the ministry safe? And is it effective?

We’re going to be talking with Deepak Reju about two of his very helpful books. In the first part of the interview, we will talk about the, his book Build on Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide for Gospel Based Children’s Ministry.

In the second half of our conversation, we talk about a second book On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse in the Church. We talk about why we should be on guard and what parents and church leaders can do. Whether you’re a pastor, a parent, a children’s minister, or a volunteer, you will find the conversation with Deepak helpful.

 

Resources From This Podcast

Build on Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide to Gospel-Based Children’s Ministry, by Deepak Reju
On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church, by Deepak Reju
Children’s Ministry Protection Policy Examples
ECAP– The Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention
The Disciple-Making Parent Audioblog

To hear more on this subject, listen to Chap’s interview with Jeff Dalrymple on Making the Church a Safe Place

 

Topics Covered In This Week’s Podcast

00:11 Introduction
02:41 Deepak Reju’s spiritual and professional background
08:16 Why Build on Jesus was written
11:13 How children’s ministry is different from child care
18:22 Why should parents serve in children’s ministry?
23:00 Why On Guard was written
28:30 False assumptions about our children’s safety
31:07 What parents and churches can do


Episode Transcript

I’m Chap Bettis, and you’re listening to The Disciple-Making Parent, where we seek to equip parents and churches to pass the gospel to their children.

This Sunday, hundreds of thousands of parents will drop off their children at the children’s ministry of a church, and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours will have been spent in preparation. But is the ministry safe, and is it effective?

Hi, my name is Chap Bettis and I’m the author of The Disciple-Making Parent. And in today’s podcast, we’re going to be talking with Deepak Reju about two of his very helpful books. In the first part of the interview, we will talk about his book Build on Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide to Gospel-Based Children’s Ministry. And I think whether you’re a pastor or a parent or a children’s minister or a volunteer, you will find the conversation with Deepak helpful in it. He lays out the biblical basis for the importance of this ministry and he tears down the idea that it’s just mere child care. We want the next generation to hope in God. And this involves a partnership between parents and the church.

In the second half of our conversation, we talk about a second book: On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse In the Church. We’ll talk about why we should be on guard and what parents and church leaders can do. I think you’ll find both topics extremely helpful, no matter what role you have.

Well, Deepak Reju serves as Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He’s written numerous books and he’s also serves as a board member for the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He’s been married for 21 years and he has five children.

Before we start though, I want to let you know that we’re actually starting another podcast. It’s The Disciple-Making Parent Audio Blog. And in that podcast, I read some of my blog posts in audio format for your convenience. Our plan right now is to release three of these each week. So check out The Disciple-Making Parent Audio Blog on your favorite podcast provider and leave us a rating or review. That would help others discover the podcast as well. But for now, let’s think about effective and safe children’s ministry.

Chap: Well, it’s a joy to have Deepak Reju on The Disciple-Making Parent Podcast.

Deepak: Glad to, Chap, glad to have the time to.

Chap: Well, we’re going to be talking about your two of your books. One is On Guard and with the idea of setting up our churches so that they are protected from child abuse. And then also Build on Jesus, which is a comprehensive guide for children’s ministry. But before we get into that,  why don’t you give us just a little bit of your background, um, how you came to Christ, became a pastor, and even specializing in these areas.

Deepak: Sure. I came to Christ in high school. Essentially, I had a youth leader who was a single man named Gary who chose to stay in a small church that had no other singles and use his life to invest in junior high, high school kids. I came to faith by spending time with him and attending his Bible study. And Gary invested a ton in my life when I wasn’t very close to my father in those years.

And so I got to college, a brand new believer, and a senior- Edwin Weaver- a big burly guy led the only Bible study in a thousand-person dorm that I was in. That was the first time that someone, said “You need to be discipled in Scripture,” first one who took me through the Word one-on-one.

I was in Gary’s Bible study in high school, spent a lot of time with him, went to Mets baseball games with him and did a lot of other things like throwing footballs and talking about girls and cars and things that high schoolers do. And I really appreciate him because he is my spiritual father. And then Edwin would be the first guy who taught me how to be in Scripture and thinking through it.

So I’ve had a long line of men. I’ve been really fortunate to be poured into.I feel like I’m the fruit of years of older men being willing to say “You need somebody to care for you and help you think about the Christian path.” It’s been great. And then I had a turn in the middle of all my education.

Long story short, I was a typical Asian-American geek on the pre-med path. I even made it into med school and halfway through, the Lord just basically upended my plans. I went through a severe depression and burnout, which I could see now was the Lord slowing me down after bringing people to me over the course of a couple years, challenging me to go into ministry, me refusing. The Lord had to throw down a brick wall in front of my tracks and force me to reevaluate my life.

And from then on, I think it was an act of faith where I thought, I really don’t understand how this all gonna work out, but I’m gonna give up all the type-A plans I’ve been working towards for years and just go ahead and make the leap of the ministry. And I’ve never looked back. That was 1995, and it’s been an amazing ride since then. I went to seminary, got a generic MDiv that all pastors get, and came back to work for the church I’m at. And then my boss, Mark Dever, spoke in and said, “You’ve got gifts in counseling. And so you should go and get a degree in that and start using yourself for the Kingdom in that way.” And then what I wasn’t expecting- afterwards he said, “And when you finish the degree, come back and work for me.”

So that was kind of the one-two punch. I’m a first child, Asian-American, pretty obedient to authority. So a guy who loves me is pouring into my life and at that point is my pastor and my shepherd. And when my boss actually said that, I thought, Okay, I’ll go do it. Sounds good to me, and went back, got a counseling degree, and came back and started working as a staff pastor here. And this would be year 15th that I’ve been on staff and it’s been amazing. It’s a wonderful place to work, a wonderful team to work for, and Mark and I have been friends since 1993. So we’ve known each other a couple of decades now.

And that’s what I do now. I invest in people in counseling. So I lead both in getting in the trench and helping people who are having troubles. I train members, which is some form for what I do, trying to build a DNA into our church. And then I supervise the youth minister and then the children’s ministry staff. And those two worlds collide in books like On Guard: where my counseling bent and then my family ministry bent land in a book like On Guard where I’m trying to prevent abuse, but equip specifically those who are in the trenches like parents or children’s ministry people, or folks in a local church.

Chap: Oh, that’s so great. As you’re answering I’m thinking, Oh man, there’s the nugget for the men to invest in younger men. There’s the nugget for senior pastors or pastors to say, part of my role is to recruit and point out gifts. And yes, you are a gift to the church where you’re you’re at and also to the greater church. MWell, before we talk about On Guard, because I think it naturally flows out of the end your book, Build on Jesus, let’s talk about Build on Jesus. You wrote it with Marty Machowski, and the subtitle is A Comprehensive Guide to Gospel-Based Children’s Ministry. And I just want to say from the outset I owe Marty Machowski a huge debt of gratitude. He was the first one to endorse and read The Disciple-Making Parent. So he gave an unknown pastor in New England a chance and read the manuscript,, and loved it and wrote it.

Talk a little bit about why you wrote it, who it’s intended for,  what you hope people take away from it.

Deepak: Well, so Marty  is kind of like the godfather to a lot of us who are doing the family ministry. Dealing with youth and teens and children and just that whole arena from a pastoral vantage point, if there’s a number of us who are doing that, Marty’s the one who’s done it for three decades or more.  Hence to kind of look to him as the grandpa of all the rest of us, the guy who’s been doing it so long that we need to get his wisdom on it. So I knew I needed help. I knew, one, my children’s ministry director doesn’t have a playbook. And two, I needed somebody wiser than me to help me figure out how best to write it.

So that was the goal: Get my children’s ministry director some kind of playbook for her job. And then two, get everything I can out of Marty and combine my kind of type-A drive to get a book out there with Marty’s wisdom captured in a book. And that’s what we got. So it can be primarily for the children’s major director, but obviously we wrote chapters for pastors in there. We wrote chapters for volunteers. We wrote chapters for members. So it really is meant for a pretty wide range of folks. Anybody who’s working in the children’s ministry in any form should be able to read it and get something out of it. Because the first part of the book is just building a vision. Well, what are we doing?

The second part are the key players and what their roles are. Pastor, the staff, the members, the parents, just, how do we all play a role in this? And the third part is the practical part of it, everything from creativity to fire drills to protecting kids against abuse, the whole range of things that you need to think about if you’re actually going to pull it off. Foundations, people, and practical really were the three parts of the book. I enjoyed it immensely.

Chap: Take a moment and expand on that, that people part. Talk to the senior pastor, or the parents who see it more as childcare. I’m afraid that somehow in our tribe of churches and the stream that I’m in, it can feel feel like everybody’s aiming to be the senior pastor. And I remember Marty talks about a moment where he could feel younger senior pastors sort of feeling sorry for him, that he’s been in children’s ministry all these years. And that’s really, we would argue, a wrong view. So take a minute. Talk to the senior pastor or the parents about the importance of that ministry.

Deepak: Well, what do we want? We want the overall goal is generations of godliness. We want the gospel to be passed down so that our children are holding up the banner. When I go to the grave, that’s how the gospel is going to keep going forth. And we want to convert people, we evangelize, but a huge number of people show up in the pews because people in church were faithful and parents were faithful in witnessing and evangelizing and teaching and instructing and modeling for our kids.

Chap: You talk about one time that Mark had people stand up and 75% or so said they were converted under 18.

Deepak: Yeah. Well, it wasn’t something planned by our staff. It was something he chose to do, he felt inspired by the Spirit to lead in this way to make this point where he did. You know, if you were converted under 5, you converted under 8, you converted under 12 converted by 17 and you know, 75% of the room was standing up. He was making a point of like how important are those years for us as a church to partner with the parents, and for us as parents to be good stewards of the years that we have when the kids are in the home.

The stats show in terms of the importance of the years, the number who come to Christ in those years. So we want to be good stewards of the fact that we have lots of little heathens running around in our building. And you add up the number of hours they’re actually in a church building, being taught, instructed, modeled what the gospel is, sitting through services, hearing the sermons. You want to do a good job, not because you want to build a big church- You know, I want to have a children’s ministry because I want more families. Okay, well, that’s true. You do want a vibrant children’s ministry because it will attract families, but you want to do this because you want to see hundreds of kids come to faith so they can carry the gospel banner on as the next generation.

That’s the main reason why we care. Overall, that’s why parents pour in. What is the number one desire of a parent? To see your kid come to faith. Now, as you mentioned, I dropped off my kid at college and as I wrote friends saying, “Hey, I’d love that somebody would pray with my wife and I for him.” And I listed to pray for. I listed godly peers and growing in faith because you know, the school’s gonna equip him in competency in his discipline. I am not really concerned about that. So, I don’t need you to pray for that. I need you to pray that we would have another generation that comes up.

So I want senior pastors to get that vision of what good stewardship of all these kids is, what an amazing stewardship opportunity it is, and then parents not to pass off their kids to the teachers thinking the church is the place for them to get converted, but to recognize, No, I have a 24/7 responsibility to minister the gospel to these kids.

One moment that drives me nuts- I’m a classic soccer dad. And I’m often on the sidelines with our kids for games. I’ve coached a lot of our kids for a number of years, but when parents are out on the sideline of a game and they’re staring at their phone for most of the game and not engaging with their kids, I was just like, What are you doing? You’re out here to be at dad, don’t just show up and stare at your phone! Cheer your kid on. All of it, hug ’em when they come in at the break in between the two halves. Let them know that you’re here for them.

I want parents to be engaged, not just on soccer side, but with all of their kid and to recognize the opportunity that is there. And the precious stewardship, that they’re being given a gift, because I have so many parents in my office who are struggling with infertility and would love that opportunity. And I think we do take it for granted a good bit of what God has given us in those of us who have been given children, whether that’s biological or adopted, either one. Just the precious opportunity that is for us to raise kids.

Chap: Well, that’s great. Maybe because my kids now are grown and I haven’t been in this world lately, but it’s always not about the over involved parents- you’re talking about the detached parents right there.

Deepak: Yeah.  And maybe, maybe that’s a little bit of symptomatic of DC. Like you’ve got people who are overscheduled and overworked and type-A workaholics. But I think they’re everywhere. Where the parents run frantic and they lose sight of the opportunities that are right in front of them.

Chap: Well, you can include even the non-parents because, and one of the things I appreciate about Build on Jesus is you look at Psalm 78, which talks about that. We’re going to tell these things to the next generation. And this is a corporate hymn, so yes, there’s application for individual parents that we need to do this, but there’s also this corporate idea that our church is one generation from dying. The gospel will not die, but we as a church corporately need to make sure  that we’re doing that.

Deepak: Yeah. Well, and part of that comes, Chap, from the fact that we have 800 members, but 3-400 are single. So if we didn’t have singles participating in catching this kind of vision for the stewardship of the opportunity, then our children’s ministry wouldn’t survive at all. So we really wanted to make it a vision for the whole church to recognize the stewardship of these children.

Chap: Well, that leads right into my next question. I definitely have a bias that this is a benefit, but what do you see as the benefit to parents to be involved and teaching? For some parents, this is my only time that I have without my kids. It’s me time. And yet one of the options you talk about is requiring parents to teach Sunday school, which we actually,  did because we felt like there is benefit to the parents’ skill in discipling their kids. Speak to that.

Deepak: Yeah. There’s a number of things. Well, one,  for example, singles, which we have a lot of singles volunteering,  a lot of women will have babysat kids growing up, but they’re not a parent. And a lot of men will have never babysat and have no idea what to do with kids in a room. So it’s parents who are modeling what it looks like, parents who have the kind of judgment call and how to help a kid just from experience. Most parents take for granted how much they bring to the room by just being a parent in already modeling what it looks like to care for these kids and having the experiential wisdom to teach all the singles that we have volunteering in the room.

Number two. Marty wrote this part in the book, how when they require parents to become a part of it, what they didn’t realize is how many dads then would get into children’s ministry and, seeing solid teachers in classrooms, change the nature of their family worship at home. It taught them in an unplanned, unexpected way, but a wonderful way, how to handle the Scriptures with kids in a developmentally appropriate and sensitive way, how to communicate with a two-year-old or a five-year-old or a fifteen-year-old or a seventeen-year-old is very different. And so knowing how to do that well doesn’t come naturally for most of us.

So modeling it and seeing other people modeling it often, what you see is lights go on. Where people go, Oh, okay. I didn’t know. That’s the best way to do it. And you know what? I could actually do that. I don’t need a seminary degree. What you just did is something I could do within our role. I love that. Dads catch that by volunteering in children’s ministry and seeing  other people do it.

The third part is like, you know what? Most children’s ministries are underworked and overburdened. Most children’s ministers are burning out. And so we all need to get on board. So the parents should be there, but this is my caveat: I don’t want the children’s ministry built just around the parents. Otherwise the parents will feel like it’s just a ministry for us to rotate childcare at our own church. You want singles, you want married without kids, you want seniors, you just want everybody to be stepping in and helping out here.

So there’s a lot of different reasons why I think it’s great for parents to be involved.

Chap: Yeah, that’s great. I really appreciate that. And in a sense, that goes back to why senior pastors need to see this as important because here is an  equipping moment for your parents. So you’re not just plugging the holes, you’re able to equip in workshops your parents there. So that’s really helpful. I appreciate that. And plus, one of the things I lament personally, is the loss of Sunday school, adult Sunday school. And I think one of the benefits of adult Sunday school was the prep that the teacher had to do. So yes,  you had more learning downstream from the recipients of the Sunday school, but now you had more knowledgeable teachers, individuals in the church. And so even as a Sunday school teacher for children is putting in prep time, taking time Saturday night, Friday night, hopefully all week they’re growing in the Scriptures too. So that’s another benefit.

Well, at the end of the book, you talk about really one of the responsibilities is to have a safe environment and that comes out all different ways. But one of them dovetails and you’ve written the whole book On Guard. Talk with us just a little bit of why you wrote it and why you think it’s needed.

Deepak: Yeah, so it is now pretty evident in with the culture wars over abuse and domestic violence and just all kinds of issues in the “me, too” generation. Now it’s not just the church; the culture as a whole has caught a bug for this. And  in a way in which we’re now being more careful to think through what we need to do to be good stewards of the children that have been entrusted to us. And obviously everything from the Houston Chronicle reports on the SBC’s response this summer has highlighted this issue in a way that it wasn’t when I was writing the book. The times have now caught up with the book that I tried to write. I wrote it because, typical of me, I’m not writing for a larger audience. I’m starting because I’m a pastor that needs to think through it in my own local church. And that’s where it all started. I just wanted to think through our firewall and think what’s the best ways to make sure we’re caring for our own children.

We have around 250 kids, zero through sixth grade, upstairs on three floors in our building. That’s a little city of people. It’s an entire city of little people that we’re entrusted with every Sunday, and I’m the one who needs to take time in my job to think through, Well, what are we gonna do? So a couple of things happened. One, I went to a conference about protecting children from abuse and there was no one on a church staff doing any workshop for on any of the panels. No pastor, no children’s ministry director, just nothing. I’m glad for all these professionals, but surely there’s somebody in the trenches that can put a bug in my ear. And it planted that idea in the back of my mind. Then I realized there’s a few things I think we could improve on. So I just started reading and I came across Anna Salter is the secular expert on sexual offenders in the nation. Nationally recognized, an expert in this arena. So I started reading her material- really hard stuff to read. And you could just imagine- really difficult stuff to read. And the bottom line was, it’s just not material I could hand to a children’s minister, not something I could hand a lay person overall.

So what I wanted to do was think through biblical templates and take all of this really good research on child abuse and find a way to combine it, and then do it in a form that could be read by any layperson, children’s ministry director, pastor, something that would translate to the level of a local church. So I took all that we did.

The third part is I asked for, got, and I read through, I don’t know, 15, 20, 25 top protection policies from Nebraska country and then rewrote ours, which forced me to start thinking through not only our firewall, but then what does everybody else do? You know, one tangible example: not a single policy had a section on what to do if a sexual offender walked in our building. Now that single one had any kind of answer for somebody if a registered offender walks through your door. I thought, That’s something we’ve really got to rectify in our church. But then I need to do that. I ended up making that the last chapter of the book in order to make sure there’s something out there to help churches. It may not be common for most churches, but it does happen, and we need to be ready for it.

So those are a number of factors that came to play that made me write it. I had written three drafts of a chapter and I actually sat on it for a year or two. Didn’t do a thing with it. And one day I thought, You know, I’m just gonna send it to Marty to see what he thinks. See if he’ll give me feedback. And Marty liked it and took it to his publisher and they liked it and came down and basically took me out to dinner and we talked through it. They tried to get a feel for what I wanted to do, and at the end of that lunch, they offered a contract thinking that this is something that would fill a need that wasn’t out there at that time.

The book is now catching up with the new times, the SBC controversies, the Houston Chronicle articles, all the things that have been going on the book has kind of resurfaced again, has kind of like a second run at it because of a lot of people are paying attention to it now in a way they weren’t when I first wrote it.

Chap: Yeah, it wasn’t on pastors’ screens, or at least it wasn’t a generation ago, and you actually talk about that. What are some of the false assumptions you think people make? Thinking that parents are listening to this podcast, but also church leaders.

Deepak: Yeah, false assumptions. I know the people that my kids are with, or it’s a small church, we know everybody here. And so therefore we don’t need to do any kind of vetting or check it. Or When I see somebody who would do abuse or a sexual offender, I’ll recognize them. Because they’re a monster-  they’ll look like somebody will do that kind of thing. No kind of professional would do this kind of thing. And you just start ticking those off, actually, how do they get through? They get through by being known enough and liked enough that nobody else would suspect them. Well, you know, it’s  not just people who have mental illness, but like doctors and lawyers and school teachers, coaches, all kinds of professionals have done it along with all kinds of other people. And you hear the stories of people being shocked because somebody committed abuse in the congregation: We thought we knew this person. We never knew that this was going on.

So there’s all kinds of false assumptions that people make that don’t actually stand up when it comes to real life and the things that we find when we discover abuse, especially children who are being abused.

Chap: And  it’s surprising, but you talk about in there, the myth of “stranger danger” that years ago, that’s what we were protecting our kids from. And yet it’s more likely to occur from someone they know. And then when you include the stats- I just grabbed one stat: one out of five girls by the time she’s 18, one out of six boys by the time they’re 18 will have some sort of abuse, which a) says, “I’ve got adults in my congregation who have experienced this, that I need to think about as a pastor.” And then also, hearing for my own children.

I think one of the other assumptions is that it’s an adult. You can have teen abuse. So hopefully, we don’t have parents at this point. Totally afraid, but what are some things that parents can do? What are some things your church has done with that? I mean, not going into your whole policy. Although, is that available for the general public, or are there good policies that you would recommend?

Dr. Reju: Well, if you go to our website, capitalbaptist.org, and then you go click on Children’s Ministry, what we did- because we get asked this all the time- we went ahead and posted not only our policy, but a couple of other examples of policies that we really liked. So we’re kind of mid-sized,  we’re about a 700, 800 person church. We got a smaller church, like a 1-200 person church, and we got a bigger multi-site church. We just put a couple of different examples of policies up there so that people can get some sense of it. If you call around to three or four churches in your area and ask for examples of their policy, most of them will be able to do something that they have on file.

So yeah, you can go and read the examples that we posted online to see what a child protection policy, which is a self-imposed set of guidelines to establish a safe environment for kids. That’s what it is. And that’s one of the very first steps you need to take to establish what you’re doing. So you’re not responding ad hoc. You’re not trying to figure it out. But just established guidelines so that if accusations ever come, we’re not winging it. We kick in a set of plans that everybody has agreed to long beforehand would be a wise way to handle the situation.

In that sense. If you have a policy in place, if abuse shows up, you’re now executing the policy. You’re not trying to figure out what to do, which is the dilemma I face with most of the phone calls I get at this point after having written a book. People who are calling are not- I rarely get, and I wish I had it more, the call like, “Hey, we want to figure out how to wisely get out ahead of this.” Most of the phone calls are again, sadly, are people responding to situations and not knowing what to do about them. And a number of them I say, “Well, do you have a copy of my book?” “Yes. We’ve just never read it.” Argh, I’d pull my hair out if I had any. But, my goodness!

Chap: I wrote a book! God wrote a book! Read the book!

Deepak: Yes. I wrote the book so that you could not run into this dilemma and not know what to do! I wrote it so you can get out ahead of it even better. I wrote it so you can do everything you can to prevent it.

Now, when we talk about responding in the book, but there’s a number of strategies I lay out in the book with the goal of- we can’t perfectly make all the problems go away, but there are practical things we can do to reduce the risks. And that’s our goal. As many as we can implement. And you know, church plants have limited resources, so they can’t do everything I say in the book. So church planters actually have panic attacks when they read it because they go, “Oh, what do I do? I can’t do all of these.” I said, “Don’t worry. Do not worry at all. Pick the ones you can do. Preach faithfully, grow that church, and in time you’ll be able to do more. Just do what you can right now. Just figure out a few steps that you can pick.” And that’s our overall goal. Figure out what you can do and then reduce the risk. And the child protection policy is the very first step I recommend Figure out a policy, because that’ll set in motion, everything else really overall.

Chap: That’s good. What would you say to parents? What are some things that you and your wife tried to do? What would you say to parents if you got a, perhaps overly fearful parent? You know, “I never want my child to do any sports,” you know, anything. What would you say to that? But also, this is the sort of world we live in. What sort of cautions?

Deepak: Yeah, number one. And I say this for everything in parenting, so we should be clued into this. The two of you need to be on the same page with regard to your parenting. Dad and Mom need to like work together as a team to figure this out together. You can’t be acting as Lone Rangers when it comes to parenting. But number two, read, write, think, pray, talk, and learn. There’s a ton of good content out there. There are a lot of people who are willing to have these conversations. A lot of other parents who want to think through this. So figure out what things you think are really important and what things are not.

So, you know, you’ve got everything from, Do we like sleepovers or not? to What kind of protocols are in place at this Christian camp or our school or this soccer program doing to make sure kids are safe? And then other things that are more personal to the family environment, like, Do we know the babysitters that we’re bringing in? I mean, some of the most dreadful stories were people who groomed the parents so they could then have access to the kids.

Chap: Oh wow.

Deepak: And they’d do dreadful things to the kids. And so, do the parents know the people who they’re asking for help? And especially,  I highlight in the book, the parents who are in more unique situations compared to a stable two-parent role are special targets. Like a single parent who desperately needs help, or a kid who has special needs. Those two categories predators are going to target, because they know there are lots of needs there. And so there’s lots of help needed. So it’s more easy to work a way into their life.

So therefore parents need to know the people who are in front of their kids. We’re spending time with their kids. So I’m not going to let just anybody around my kids. And especially if my wife and I have to go away for a weekend, usually we’re picking the cream of the crop in terms of people who we know and are really connected to. But things like, you know, if my daughter’s gonna sleep over at a camp or a friend’s place, I need to be connected to the family. I need to know what’s going on. I need to know their kids. I can’t have this disinterested position and make assumptions that everything’s going to be okay.

I sadly hear all the dark stories, both in counseling, and then you write a book like this, then everybody starts calling and telling you the dark stories. So you start hearing all the difficult things that have happened. And parents are quick to assume that things will be okay until things are not okay. And then they realize things they could have done like being more invested in my kids, knowing the people who are with my children, thinking more wisely about steps and procedures, church children’s ministry, camps, children’s organizations like boy Scouts and soccer teams and soccer clubs. And know the families that my kids are engaged in.

So one of my kids started in a private Christian school and they went away for a school trip. I just realized, all the kids my daughter was rooming with, we didn’t know any of them. And I said to my wife, “I never want this to happen again. I want to have dinner with all those families after they get back for the trip so that we never do this again.” I need to know them so we’re partnering together as parents overall. And I think it’s really important because you do have this mentality of I’m paying the bills, I’m doing the best I can, get off my case. Do you want me to be that invested? That’s going to require a lot of me. Well, that’s what parenting is. It’s discipling. It’s being invested, getting over my life. So you should have never signed up if you didn’t want to do this part too. Am I allowed to say that Chap?

Chap: Absolutely. I mean, you’re saying it to the Disciple-Making Parent guy, so yeah. What is discipleship? It’s life on life. Absolutely. Oversight. And I think it really comes full circle back to the title in that we are “on guard”. So we’re not defensive. We’re not offensive assuming the worst. But we are on guard. We’re vigilant. Be self-controlled and alert. So we’re alert that this is a possibility. We have a sovereign God who is over all things. We’ve got to give our children freedom. Depending on the age they can speak back. We can’t have fearful hovering, but at the same time, it is something that we’re be alert about. So we are to be on guard.

We both have a friend, Jeff Dalrymple, who is starting a ministry who is well down that road: ECAP, the Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention, which actually certifies what you say you’re going to do. To circle back to that, the problem with the policy is you have the best intentions and then it sits on a shelf And you have gaps, and the pastor’s busy, the child minister’s busy and things don’t happen. You’re not doing what you said. So I’m looking forward to, to their launch and certification of churches and ministries to say, “Yeah, here’s what we say we’re going to do, and, see, we are doing it.”

Deepak: So yeah, a short descriptor is that Jeff in ECAP is trying to become the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for children’s ministries that have met a certain standard of criteria for creating safe environments to protect against abuse. That’s kind of the synopsis for what he’s trying to do. So they’ll get on the ground. They’ll meet with staff, they’ll look at your ministry and give you like the stamp of meeting the criteria. So that what I hope is that 20 years from now, when parents arrive at a new church, they can ask, “Do you have a big ECAP seal?” It tells them that you’ve met a certain standard in your children’s ministry in protecting kids.

And I love what he’s doing and I’m excited for what he is going to do when the certification process begins. That will actually mean a little less work for parents because if you’re gonna drop your kids off at a Christian camp, rather than asking, “Did you read Deepak’s book?” and asking the 40 questions it says I should ask you, you can say, “Hey, do you have the seal?” And that means you’re being alert and you are actively doing what you say you’re doing.

Chap: That’s great. Well, this has been a joy and a privilege. You are a gift to your church, a gift to the larger church, both in your writing and I know numerous phone calls as people have reached out to you and, like you said, said, “Help, Deepak! What do I do?” So thank you for your ministry there. I really appreciate it.

Deepak: Glad to do it, Chap. We, we don’t want to be fear mongers on any of this. Like you said, you want to trust a sovereign God is going to help us through all this and we want to trust him. So thank you for the time. I appreciate the chance to do this.

 

You’ve been listening to The Disciple-Making Parent Podcast. For more information about the book, The Disciple-Making Parent, visit thedisciplemakingparent.com.