Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Faith Works 2-16-08
Jeff Gill

Clergy Calendars Askew

This year Easter is really right up in our faces and calendars. Barring major developments in human longevity, none of us alive today will see the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus come this early again -- we’re talking 2160.

The last time we had a March 23 Easter was 1913, which few of us recall. It can also come as early as March 22, but so rarely “we” won’t see that until 2285.

So Ash Wednesday and Mardi Gras before and Lent that follows after are all way too early from what we’re used to. The idea is that after Easter there’s a bit more slack in the schedule before graduations and summer programs start to press in, though that may be a concept more than a reality.

A number of special training programs for church staff and leaders are wisely aiming for the season after Easter, and I plan on letting y’all know about them in good order.

One that I’m particularly impressed by is organized through “The Kids’ Team of Licking County.” The Kids’ Team is a group of community professionals who work with the results of child abuse and neglect, and sadly they have plenty of work to do.

This team, including folks like Ken Oswalt, our county prosecutor, and staff from Children’s Services in the Dept. of Job and Family Services, is putting together an educational training seminar on how clergy and church staff should handle identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect.

They’re offering two dates for pastors to choose from, and you can just pick the one that fits best in your schedule. The first training will be held on Wednesday, April 9th, at 9:30am at the First Methodist Church located at 88 N. 5th St in Newark, and the second will be held on Tuesday, April 22nd at 7pm at the Jersey Baptist Church located at 13260 Morse Road, Pataskala. Their goal for this training is “to help you better understand your role in this process of suspected child abuse or neglect and offer support and information on what to do when you suspect such situation. We are aware that making a report is often a complex task. Not only is it difficult to know when to report, it is equally as difficult to deal with the aftermath when families are in crisis.”

This well-timed training opportunity is open to all clergy in the Licking County area, as well as youth pastors, classroom teachers, or child care staff associated with your church. This training is offered at no cost to you or your staff, and every church in the county will soon get a letter with more info, or you can call at 740-670-8914 for reservations by Friday, April 4th.

Not to discourage you from marking this right now on your calendar, but I not only plan to attend, I’ll be helping deliver some of the content at these training events at the invitation of the Kids’ Team. I’m often responsible for sharing this kind of material for fellow counselors and camp directors in church camp settings, and work closely with the Scouting program along these same lines, called “Youth Protection Training.”

They don’t teach you much about this in seminary, if at all, and dealing with child abuse is a bad place to learn by experience.

While many are aware of stories that have been in the media over the last few years about clergy and church staff involved inappropriately with children, less well known is how often pastors and church leaders have helped to end situations of molestation and abuse, and lead families to the full range of healing assistance available in our community.

Suffering in silence and solitude is not necessary, but too many think it is the only path available. Attending this training event can give your church a road map for getting where you really want to be going in the first place, even if a detour suddenly blocked the way ahead for your youth ministry.

God has a way of showing up along detours, y’know.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your story at

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