On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church
by Deepak Reju
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"Jimmy" joined the church a year ago. Before long, he volunteered to teach a Sunday School class and got to know eight-year-old “Peter.” Things started innocently. A hug at the end of class. Gifts for Peter. Lots of extra attention. And then it happened. Jimmy took advantage of Peter.
In On Guard, Deepak Reju examines why child predators target churches and offers eleven straightforward strategies to protect children from abuse and to help young victims recover if it does happen. While On Guard does provide practical help for building a child protection policy, it provides much more. Full of pastoral wisdom, On Guard recognizes that the church’s response to abuse must be more comprehensive—in line with her calling—than a simple legal policy or clinical analysis. On Guard moves church staff and leaders beyond fearful awareness to prayerful preparedness with an actionable plan.
Deepak Reju, MDiv, PhD, serves as the pastor of biblical counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, DC, as well as president for the board of directors of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He is the author of several books and articles, including On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church, She's Got the Wrong Guy: Why Smart Women Settle, Great Kings of the Bible: How Jesus Is Greater than Saul, David and Solomon, and The Pastor and Counseling. Deepak and his wife Sarah have been married since 2001 and have five children.
"Deepak Reju writes with conviction and compassion about the sobering reality of child abuse and the challenge of protecting children in this fallen world. Highlighting both the responsibility and privilege of our stewardship, Deepak’s straightforward, thorough, and well-researched insights will instill in any parent or church leader a healthy fear and God-dependent confidence while providing us with practical steps and effective strategies for fulfilling the calling and responsibility we have as God’s stewards. We earnestly encourage church leaders to embrace Deepak’s concern and apply his counsel for the protection and the joy of the next generation."
Pastor David and Sally Michael, Founders, Children Desiring God
"If I could mandate that at least one leader from every church had to read a single book, I don’t think there are too many I would choose ahead of On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church. Too many times the purpose and witness of the church has been tarnished by her failure to offer safety and protection to children. This book offers assistance where so many churches have failed."
Tim Challies, Pastor, author, and blogger at Challies.com
"Child sexual abuse in the church is a scandal, and yet many of us in church are woefully ill-equipped to identify danger signs, understand our legal responsibilities, or respond in an appropriate pastoral manner to the victims. In this timely book, Deepak Reju addresses all of these areas of concern, offering helpful advice to pastors, elders, and Christians in general on what the reality of this evil requires of them in terms of organization, wisdom, and action. Whether your church is just starting to formulate a child protection policy or seeking to protect the children in its care more effectively, this book will be a very useful resource in addressing the challenges in keeping children safe and giving comfort and care to the victims of abuse."
Carl R. Trueman, Pastor, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Ambler, PA; Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
"Deepak has given the church a fine gift. He has written a very practical plan for churches so we can better love and protect our children and teens. It won't overburden a church with endless regulations, but it will give church leadership what they must know, and it will lay out what church leadership must teach its members and ministry staff. This book will, guaranteed, make you and your church wiser."
Ed Welch, Author and CCEF Faculty
"Everyone agrees that we should be on guard to protect children in our churches. What's been lacking is a clear and concise guide that shows church leaders how. In On Guard, Deepak Reju has now provided us with a theologically grounded and deeply practical guide precisely for this purpose."
Timothy Paul Jones, PhD, C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"On Guard is a road map that will help your church, its leaders, staff, and congregation create a safer environment for families. It does not pull any punches delivering case studies, facts, and figures that will shock many. By deconstructing the stereotypical image of the sexual predator, it forces the reader to reflect on the reality that predators very often hide in plain sight, behind the facade of the all-American father, youth pastor, preacher, or highly respected member of the congregation. If your church hasn’t got a child protection policy or you want to test the one you have, this provides all the references and checklists you will need. Whether inside or outside the church, this is a must read for all child protection professionals."
Jim Gamble, QPM, CEO INEQE Safe & Secure; former CEO of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre; founding Chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce on Child Protection; lead on Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Child Abuse Investigation until 2011
"How should a church respond to a convicted sex offender who, after serving his sentence, wants to join your church? How do we affirm the gospel of grace without making naïve and tragic mistakes? How can predators be identified and what "best practices" do we need to guard against abuse within the church, even by leaders? Sad to say, we really need this book."
Michael Horton, Professor of Theology, Westminster Seminary California; cohost of the White Horse Inn
"The church has been woefully "behind the curve" when it comes to addressing sexual abuse. Fortunately, On Guard by Deepak Reju brings a much-needed resource to church leadership. Reju is a shepherd who clearly loves the vulnerable sheep. Beyond statistics and stories, Reju speaks into the heart of contemporary church life with insight that faces evil and also brings practical help. I recommend every new pastor or intern read this book. On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church is a mouthful we’re going to have to digest to move toward the front of the curve."
Andrew J. Schmutzer, PhD, Professor of Biblical Studies, Moody Bible Institute; author/editor of The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused
"On Guard is a much-needed bomb and balm. It detonates many dangerous assumptions of the evangelical church regarding child abuse, and it points us toward true healing and wise safety measures. This is a must-read for every pastor and ministry leader and a gift of love to every child. I wish this book had been published decades ago!"
Peter Hubbard, Teaching Pastor, North Hills Community Church, Taylors, SC; author of Love into Light
"Thanks to On Guard, many children will be protected from the horrors of child abuse. In addition to providing a more comprehensive approach toward child abuse, he offers helpful strategies to prevent and respond to abuse at church. All pastors, children ministry leaders, church staff, and parents need Deepak’s book."
Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal priest; seminary professor; coauthor of Rid of My Disgrace and God Made All of Me
"I can’t recommend Deepak’s book highly enough. Deepak provides a thorough education on child protection for your childcare workers, practical help in implementing a child protection policy at your church, and sets an appropriately tough standard that will scare the daylights out of any predators looking to target your children. Get a case of these books to give to your children’s ministry workers as a training tool to equip them in their service and care of your children."
Marty Machowski, Children’s Pastor; author of the Gospel Story Bible and curriculum, Long Story Short, and Old Story New
"This book is a must-read for every church and pastor. The church has a moral responsibility to be fully equipped in the protection of children under its care and how to respond in a God-honoring way when our best efforts at prevention fail. We have not lived up to this standard, but Deepak has served the church well by writing this needed resource. It is now our responsibility to study it, examine our current practices at each church, and make necessary changes. Make sure every church and pastor you know gets a copy."
Brad Hambrick, Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church, Durham, NC
"I know of no single book that captures well the full picture and essential need to protect children in the modern church and how to accomplish it wisely . . . until now. I am deeply grateful that Deepak Reju wrote this book. His wise pastor's heart and years of credible experience he brings to this area of ministry permeates from every page. On Guard is thoroughly biblical and immensely practical. Every pastor, church leader, and church member working with children in the local church must read this book. This is one of the most important books for the local church I have read in many years!"
Brian Croft, Senior Pastor, Auburndale Baptist Church; founder, Practical Shepherding; author
"On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church needs to be in the hands of every pastor and ministry leader in every church. This candid, compassionate, and comprehensive manual provides exactly what the church desperately needs to protect children and to protect the reputation of Christ and the bride of Christ. Replete with wise biblical principles and practical real-life policies and procedures, On Guard equips the church to take the lead in proactively protecting the most precious and vulnerable among us."
Bob Kellemen, PhD, Executive Director, Biblical Counseling Coalition; author of Gospel-Centered Counseling
"Rev. Reju boldly articulates that the church does not, in fact will not, write a child safety plan if it does not understand the call of scripture as the basis for such a plan. From chapter to chapter, the author extracts from numerous Scripture verses and stories the sound theological foundation for a child safety plan. He emphasizes that every movement toward the development of a child safety plan must embrace our duty to love the church and the little ones in its care, but also to abhor the moral failure of doing nothing to protect little ones from harm or restricting potential abusers from unfettered access to do harm."
Beth A. Swagman, MSW, ACSW, JD, Director of Safe Place Consulting, PLC, Grand Rapids, MI; author of Preventing Child Abuse: Creating a Safe Place
"Sexual predators target children in churches. This sobering truth ought to lead us to pray—and prepare. In his timely book, Deepak Reju helps pastors and parents consider what it means to proactively defend children from those who would seek to do them harm. This valuable resource brings needed sobriety along with practical wisdom to assist churches in developing policies, procedures, and response plans to help guard our children. I have great hope that God will use this book for his glory and the good of many children."
Garrett Kell, Lead Pastor, Del Ray Baptist Church, Alexandria, VA
"In a perfect world, a book like On Guard would not be necessary. But our world is broken, and we need serious help navigating the often complex issues of protection, justice, and healing when it comes to the most vulnerable in our churches. Deepak Reju has met this need in a clear, practical, and powerful way."
Jared C. Wilson, Pastor, Middletown Springs Community Church, Vermont; author of The Wonder-Working God
"On Guard provides a compelling and challenging glimpse into one of the gritty realities facing churches today—the prevalence of child sexual abuse. Reju’s statistics and stories are startling. But his recommendations for a thorough child protection policy and suggestions for writing one are practical, helpful, and insightful—born from real-world experience. On Guard challenges churches, leaders, and parents to proactively protect the children in their care. A valuable resource for churches of all sizes!"
Kathy Stout-LaBauve, LCSW, Vice President of Aftercare, International Justice Mission
"I wish we lived in a world where books like On Guard were not necessary. Since we don’t, however, I am very glad that Deepak Reju wrote this excellent book. On Guard is an immensely helpful guide for pastors and other church leaders who want to prevent and respond to child abuse in their midst. I recommend that you read it and implement its wisdom before you need it."
Mike McKinley, Pastor Sterling Park Baptist Church (Sterling, VA); author of Am I Really a Christian?
"A lead pastor often has his mind wrapped up in the next sermon, staff issues, the overall vision of the church, and shepherding the adults of his congregation well. But how often does he stop to think about the critical logistical issues that could build or utterly destroy the health of a congregation, such as the physical safety of the children and youth in its ministries? And is he prepared to shepherd well when a horrible situation occurs involving a child? On Guard changed how I think. I have never disagreed with the principles and wisdom in the book, but nor have I really given much attention to them so I could lead and be accountable for our children’s ministry staff. Deepak Reju has addressed the vital issues of safeguarding and responding to child abuse in the context of a local church within a theological and pastoral framework. Whether you are a children’s ministry volunteer or a lead pastor, this is an essential read."
Jay Thomas, Lead Pastor, Chapel Hill Bible Church
"On Guard should be mandatory reading for every pastor! For too long, the sexual abuse of children has been one of the darkest places inside the church. This is the reason I am so excited to endorse this book by Deepak Reju that helps to shine light and brings hope to this issue. Not only does this book do a thorough job in identifying the complex issues, but it also offers fantastic practical guidance on how to confront and address abuse in a manner that protects children and serves survivors."
Boz Tchividjian, Executive Director, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)
"This is a full book-length treatment of a terrifyingly common reality—the sexual abuse of children in religious environments. It is well-grounded in biblical and theological truth, and it provides concrete information both about the extent of the problem and about the specific steps that churches must take to address the problem (steps that are also directly relevant to synagogues and mosques). It should be required reading for the leaders of all religious communities."
Dr. Samuel Logan, International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship
"We all might wish that a book like this wouldn't have to be written, but wishful thinking is exactly the kind of thing that puts children at risk. Child predators aim to victimize children, and they know that many churches are doing little to keep them out. Deepak Reju has done an enormous service to God's people by showing us how to keep our churches On Guard against child predators. This book is extremely practical and a must-read for pastors and church leaders."
Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"One of the greatest challenges facing the twenty-first-century church in North America is how to protect our children from child abuse. While the moral responsibility to guard our children from emotional and physical harm is undisputed, it seems that too many church leaders continue to respond wrongly to allegations and even the proof that abuse has occurred. How to handle these situations becomes overwhelmingly confusing and complex when a church has not properly planned for how to prevent and respond to abuse. In On Guard, Deepak Reju has served us all. He pulls back the curtain of child abuse and provides a clear-headed analysis of the problem, and then he provides eleven strategies for preventing and responding to abuse. We can’t get this wrong! The moral, physical, and emotional health of our children and the faithful witness of the justice and loving kindness of God displayed in the gospel depend on it."
Keith Whitfield, PhD, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC
"Authority exercised well is one of the most beautiful pictures we have of God and his character. Authority abused, especially among children, is one of the most heinous sins and offenses against God because it lies about his image and who he is. In On Guard, Deepak reflects pastorally, practically, and biblically on how to exercise authority well so that Christian leaders and parents can most effectively protect and care for children in the church. This is an essential resource for every local church, filling a much-needed gap and giving practical tools that will honor God, protect children, and strengthen the witness of the gospel in a dark, dark world."
Ryan Townsend, Executive Director, 9Marks
"Dr. Deepak Reju brings practical and pastoral wisdom to a subject not many people are willing to talk about today, despite the fact that one in three girls and one in four boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood. His eight strategies for protecting against abuse are worth the price of the book. Read this one and weep. Then get to work to protect our children."
C. Ben Mitchell, PhD, Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University