I used to be an insurance salesman. It was a tough job but it paid the bills. One of the most challenging parts to the job was convincing people that having a discussion about life insurance was worth their time. Of course, once the conversation happened, most people realized their dire need for protection in the event of death.
When I was sent Deepak Reju’s On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church, my first reaction was, “I don’t want to read a book about child abuse at church!” With so many other fascinating books to consider, this was literally the last book on my list. To me, this felt like the “life insurance” book—I simply didn’t want to pick it up.
However, within a few months, our elders came to the stark reality that we needed to address child protection in our church. A registered sex offender had visited our church yet didn’t bother to tell anyone about his past. We found out after he had left the church. Thankfully, nothing happened. But we explored the question: What if? Not only were we not prepared to handle a situation were it to arise, we realized that we were not even adequately protecting our children through our current practices.
Then I remembered this book.
On Guard is the most important book you never thought you’d need to read. In it, Pastor Deepak Reju explores the problem of child abuse in America. The statistics alone terrified me. One thing is certain: This problem is pervasive and cannot be ignored.
Reju lays out eight strategies for protecting against abuse:
- Creating and Implementing a Child Protection Policy
- A Check-in and Check-out Process
- Screening and Verification
- Building Design
- Training Your Staff and Volunteers
- Preparing Church Leaders, Parents, Children, and Teens Before Abuse Happens
- Getting to Know the People and Resources in Your Community
The final section includes three strategies for responding to abuse should it occur within the church. It must be said that Reju’s chapter on “Creating and Implementing a Child Protection Policy” is alone worth the price of the book.
In reading On Guard, I was struck with the thoroughness and pastoral care taken in researching and writing the book. Reju notes that while the possibility of abuse cannot be completely thwarted, there are basic steps that can be taken to minimize risk. He even works through the profile of a typical sex offender, noting schemes and patterns often employed to ensnare children.
As a father, my gut reaction was to clutch my kids and hold them close to me. And while, as Christians, we’re not called to fear (2 Tim. 1:7), we are called to be diligent and manifest a healthy suspicion of any and all threats. Reju writes, “A degree of healthy skepticism is necessary to keep sexual predators at bay. In protection our kids, we want to strike a balance between genuine hope in God and a realistic outlook on the depravity of human beings.” 1
In the end, On Guard is an absolute necessity for every pastor, elder, youth minister, nursery worker, and caring parent in the church. You simply cannot afford to be ignorant of this issue; not when it involves the most precious persons in our care—our children.
Title: On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church
Author: Deepak Reju
Publisher: New Growth Press; First edition (October 31, 2014)
- Deepak Reju, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church. (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2014), 36. ↩