Time to Find Our Voice

A chronic complaint among kidmin is that we aren’t taken seriously enough. Often we have lamented the fact that we are treated as child care providers rather than ministers. Well, here’s an opportunity to be a ministry, to stand up on a cultural issue that strikes at the very heart of children’s well-being in this country.

Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald Sandusky, 67, has been charged with 21 felony counts for allegedly abusing eight male minors over a period of 15 years.

Evidence is mounting that many in the upper levels of Penn State knew about the sexual abuse Sandusky had inflicted on numerous boys but failed to notify police. Among those determined to be negligent were Penn State President, Graham Spanier, and legendary head football coach, Joe Paterno (pictured). Both were fired this week.

This unthinkable tragedy is disturbing on many levels. Here are but a few.

  1. Eight boys were named in the felony charge. That means there are a lot more we don’t yet know about. If there are eight we know about, there are probably eighty we don’t yet know about. If history about abuse cases teaches us anything, it is that this was bigger than we yet know.
  2. Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit organization he started in the late 1970s. He used the organization to gain access to young boys.
  3. Penn State covered this up. Graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, entered the locker room on March 1, 2002 to find Sandusky having oral sex with a young boy. McQueary went to Paterno’s home and told him what he saw. (Click here for a chilling timeline of events.) Their football program was a national model and made a $50 million profit each year. Apparently, they valued football and money over the safety of kids. There is no other plausible reason why more wasn’t done to stop Sandusky.
  4. When the Pen State Board of Regents fired Paterno, 3000 students rioted. The board fired him because they rightly felt he should have taken decisive action to stop Sanducky’s abuse of boys. The students were more outraged over the firing of their hot shot coach than over the child abuse victims.
  5. Children’s pastors in America have largely been silent on an issue that should have struck a nerve with them. If we want to be taken seriously as ministers, than this is one time we need to put down our coloring sheets and organizational charts and make our voice heard.

I am not advocating that we march in the streets or start a riot, just speak up. I have a few suggestions.

  • Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to express your dismay over the abuse at Penn State. Just say something as simple as, “The abuse at Penn State is heartbreaking. As a society we need to value kids over football and money.” Let’s make the point that we need a clearer societal focus on protecting children.

  • Report child abuse to the police anytime you know about it for certain. It is NOT enough to report abuse to your pastor. If you know about abuse and do NOT report it, then you are breaking the law. Your pastor does not have the authority to prevent you from reporting abuse. Sadly, some lead pastors are afraid to report abuse that might reflect poorly on the church, particularly if a staff member was involved. That makes no difference. Report abuse to the police. You can inform your pastor about what you are doing, but you do not, should not, seek his permission. Aside from it being the right thing to do, saving your job is not worth the legal challenges that could occur.

  • Talk to your volunteers about this. Make sure they understand the gravity of child abuse.

  • Pray for our country. Would other universities have acted differently? Maybe not. Valuing football and money over children strikes at the soul of America.

It’s time for kidmin to find their voice. I have heard more outrage from Geraldo than I have from children’s pastors. Franky, this embarrasses me. Timidity is not a fruit of the Spirit. Let’s stand up and be heard on this one.

Gerald Sandusky (L) with Joe Paterno (R)

Comments

  1. I was devastated about the recent Penn State event, not only for the victims, but for all the fans and viewers who have shown their cries for the well-being of the football team. Really?!?! A child (many children) may have been molested and people are concerned with the status of who will coach the next game! My heart aches for the status of our world’s thought process and priorities. We all should be concerned with the truth, the innocence taken, and the future preventions first. Football will be played soon enough. Perhaps this should also be taken as a lesson in not holding any man as an idol…humans will fail us…God will reign flawless. May God bless these children and their families.

  2. Steve Gehl says:

    Amen Roger!!! Where are the men of courage here? Christians, and I believe especially men, need to find our voices and awaken as a group. Now ladies, I am not excluding you, I am just ashamed by the unbridled apathy of our men. It is so much deeper than just this. How will we answer God when he asks why we let pornography run rampant in our society? Why are we not shouting out the injustices from our rooftops? We must lead the world to the love of Christ, and I believe that the world is just waiting for us to speak out and lead them. Thank you for sharing your views on this troubling issue.

  3. Thank you so much for this post Roger.

  4. Thank you Roger for speaking about this on Kidmin Talk. For those visiting Roger’s blog, I invite you to listen to my interview of Roger on this topic on my webmast: http://tinyurl.com/kidmintalk009

    Well done!

  5. Roger,

    As you know I have a great deal of respect for you and agree with you most of the time (my clever way of indicating that this time is going to be different :)).

    I appreciate your outrage. I have, and do, feel it every time I read something about this story. I agree wholeheartedly with your premise that it is time for us, as Christians, to stand up and do something about it. No doubt that God is grieved infinitely more by this than we are even capable of experiencing.

    Where I respectfully disagree is in what those actions should be.

    Expressing our outrage at the situation seems like a misplaced effort. Conviction without action leads to condemnation. It is time to act, and that involves a lot more than simply voicing our displeasure or trying to assert ourselves as “experts” in the field of children. I believe that our time could be much better spent than trying to be taken seriously as ministers.

    We should be:

    1. Calling the church to action. Too many churches have no policies when it comes to protecting the kids God places in their care.
    2. Ministering to children who have been abused.
    3. Raising awareness of this issue. Though it is tragic that these events happened, we must capitalize on the fact that public awareness of this issue is at an all time high and turn that awareness into action both inside and outside of the church (as an aside, how tragic is it that the level of outrage in this incident was so much higher than that with the Catholic Church? We live in a society that idolizes sport.)
    4. Training people how to spot abuse and report it.

    It is time to set up ministries and organizations aimed at prevention and spreading the healing that comes through a relationship with Christ.

    I do not care if my neighbor or the guy I went to elementary school with who is a friend on facebook despite the fact that we haven’t spoken in 30 years knows that I am outraged by what took place at Penn State. I care that God knows that I feel hurt and pain for His children and that I am ready and willing to do whatever He calls me to do in this area.

    I am not interested in “A Voice” so much as I am interested in “A Result,” and that result is based on doing what I can within the sphere of influence God has given me to protect children going forward and minister to those hurt in the past.

    In the end, I doubt we really disagree very much at all. It is time we did something. I just think that judgment starts with the house of God, and before we call society to a higher standard of protecting kids (a noble goal no doubt) we must call our brothers and sisters to a higher standard and to action.

    God Bless!

  6. Thank you for the posting. Our church has bi-annual Child Abuse and Sexual Misconduct Prevention Training. The training had been scheduled prior to the incident at Penn State. I just completed training for 45 paid staff and volunteers in all areas of ministry, not just Children’s Ministry. The individuals attending the training are now much more aware and sensitized to the needs of children, advocating for them, and understanding the importance of safe practices.
    I am so grateful for these individuals caring about all of God’s Children.

  7. A really brave act on the church’s part would be to begin to dismantle, at least among our own people, the idolatry of sport. There are few things we could do that would earn us as much pushback as that would. These are GAMES people play. Why is it so important? How has it become so important? And do we, really, as a culture and certainly as the people of God, need to contribute to its faux-importance? This would probably not have been covered up in quite the same way if there had not been so much to lose: why is this investment in money, energy, passion being made? time to call it what it is: at Penn State, it was close to religion. At other places, it is also true. In my environs, people who would never think to treat a Muslim badly, feel emboldened to treat a Red Sox fan badly (really!). What about it, men? Dare we go there? (Yes, I’m female.)

  8. As a former victim, my heart breaks for the children that now must learn to fight through the pain and confusion of the past. Only through the amazing love of God will they ever truly be able to be free. My heart also breaks for the Nation, as we once again see the fruits of an assault on our Godly heritage. We are in danger of producing the very first generation of American children that have no idea who God really is! As much as it pains me to say, this is truly another example of what happens when “good men do nothing.” How many families must be destroyed? How many children must be assaulted, killed, or forgotten? How much longer will the “Body of Christ” sit by and watch as Satan destroys us from within? What you are seeing is fruit, plain and simple. We have sown complacency and our children will harvest apathy. We have walked away from the fight and now our children are fighting for their very lives! It was never God’s plan for His church to hide behind our walls and allow Satan to pillage. The bible tells us to stand in Ephesians 6 and that the gates of hell would not prevail. We as a body forgot how to stand long ago. Until we find out how, we will continue to see the fruits of “our labor”. It is time, in the words of one of my favorite songs, to “get on our knees and fight like a man.” This generation of children need us more than any generation in the past!

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