Restorative Dialogue in the Realm of Church Abuse and Boundary Setting: The Challenges and Opportunities (Part 2)

by Duncan Smith (Denver, Colorado)

If only prevention were a matter of handing out some guidelines! The key to prevention is to raise self-awareness about both the intention and impact of one’s actions. For church leaders, as well as other leaders, it is important to recognize the power and influence they have in their positions and roles. The irony is that leaders may downplay this out of a misguided sense of servant leadership rather than recognizing their power and influence and then using it for servant leadership. 

Over the last fifteen years or so many denominations/faith groups have instituted requirements of Boundary Trainings for their credentialed leaders. This is also expanding to lay leaders and congregational participants. Boundary Training seeks to work with raising self-awareness of abuse and misconduct for leaders and others in the church. 

One of the leaders in Boundary Training is Faith Trust Institute. They assist several denominations in setting up formal Boundary Training.  Boundary Training is required in most of the area conferences in my denomination, Mennonite Church USA, with refreshers required every 2 to 3 years. 

Denominations also may have their credentialed leaders sign off on covenantal agreements of sexual ministerial ethics. These agreements usually cover non-sexual ethics as well. While signing a covenant is no guarantee, if taken seriously, making a commitment is important and can help increase a person’s self-awareness. 

Church abuse and misconduct are not confined to credentialed or official leaders. Training and policies for keeping children and youth safe in congregations have also been developed. Dove’s Nest is one place to find safe church resources. The church is at the front end of addressing abuse and misconduct by lay leaders, such as bullying. 

Check for resources available to you from your church or organization.