SBTC launches sexual abuse awareness initiative

During the Monday, February 25, session of the Empower Conference, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards announced a multi-faceted response to sexual abuse in churches. The convention’s primary partner for these responses will be MinistrySafe, a company that offers training and resources for ministries and services that work with children.

An allocation approved by the convention’s Executive Board will fully fund training for as many as five people per church in as many as 1,000 SBTC churches. The training can be either certification through the MinistrySafe Institute, a 16-hour course primarily aimed at ministry leaders, or the more basic Sexual Abuse Awareness training for ministry volunteers.

Also in partnership with MinistrySafe, the convention will host five regional training events during 2019. These events will be held in major cities across the state and the cost will be covered by the Cooperative Programs gifts given by churches through the SBTC. The convention will employ a ministry consultant to assist churches in accessing training resources.

Richards indicated the SBTC Executive Board will be exploring “other steps” as they work with staff and church leaders to implement appropriate responses to the problem.

“Business as usual is not acceptable,” Richards concluded, before leading the crowd in prayer for victims and churches as the convention commits to “do more” to help.

The same night, after the scheduled session concluded, MinistrySafe conducted a training event at the convention center that was open to all Empower attendees.

Greg Love and Kimberlee Norris, a married couple, law partners and the co-founders of MinistrySafe, believe that the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are beginning to understand the problem of sexual abuse in churches. But the problem is bigger than most people think.

Describing the importance of the partnership with the SBTC, Love said, “…the partnership between MinistrySafe and the SBTC is so valuable as we get to both leverage our strengths: Baptist churches trust the SBTC leadership and MinistrySafe provides cutting edge training and resources.”

At the late-night gathering Monday evening, Love and Norris shared with church leaders a little about the urgency of the situation. Their statistics showed:

  • Most abusers (90 percent) never encounter the legal system and would thus not show up on criminal background checks.
  • Because abusers have scores, even hundreds in some cases, of victims, the size of the abuser population should be more of a concern than most press coverage has made it.
  • Most churches do a far better job protecting children from abduction (a relatively rare occurrence) than from “inside the fence” abusers (church volunteers, peers and ministry leaders).
  • Abusers rarely “look” like abusers. They can be winsome and appealing to even those assigned to safeguard children. This is part of the “grooming” behavior of abusers.

The presentation returned frequently to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on sexual abuse (which SBTC messengers also adopted in November, 2018), describing it as correctly identifying “three ‘must do’ items for Baptists.” The items were identified as: 1) creating cultures of communication, “which includes reports to appropriate authorities,” 2) “receiving well and caring for those who have been abused,” and 3) the implementing of “the necessary systems to protect children from abuse in church programming.”

The SBTC is ramping up its 10-year relationship with MinistrySafe with these new initiatives. The training can be accessed at

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