COVID-19
  • How religious leaders can prioritize emotional and mental health during the pandemic and beyond

    With 41% of Americans reporting symptoms of depression or anxiety attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder religious leaders also are feeling more stressed than ever before. Many of you are facing heightened needs from your members and the community while also managing personal stressors — balancing family needs, financial concerns and an increasing workload while continuing to provide your congregation with the services they need and expect, but in different ways. Houses of worship also have some unique challenges. Many were forced to rapidly transition from gathering members face-to-face, the pre-pandemic norm, to online services. This swift change was so challenging, according to recent research, 30% of pastors said they were worried about being able to connect with their congregation. In this environment, we all are seeking guidance on how to handle the changing dynamics of our lives while maintaining a healthy balance. As a leader of an organization that supports houses of worship, I will admit the pandemic has taken a toll on my own emotional health and motivated me to make positive changes in my daily habits. Faith leaders, you also need to prioritize your own emotional, physical and mental health. You must be healthy and well to serve others who need you more than ever. Start by modeling the importance of self-care. Here are a few helpful tips: Embrace mindfulness. As busy as you are, find time each day to center yourself through prayer, meditation and other forms of mindfulness. Nourishing your own spiritual life is a powerful way to lead others. If you haven’t done so already, you might want to explore the wide variety of phone apps for self-centering that can supplement your faith-based practices. Talk openly about counseling and therapy resources. Whether it’s during a weekly Sunday service or a church leadership staff meeting, talking openly about therapy and counseling is a healthy way to encourage individuals to seek help when they need it. Religious leaders have the ability to encourage people to receive care for their physical health, and the same should be true for emotional and mental health. Consider sharing your own experience with therapy or simply make a point to speak frequently and clearly about the resources available. Doing so will help further destigmatize these dimensions of health care. Rest and recharge. If you find yourself feeling burnt out, in a negative mindset or quick to anger, it might help to make more time for restorative practices. It’s a simple but powerful truth — regular exercise and healthy eating are central to overall health. Bolster feelings of community by encouraging your church leadership and volunteers to share exercise challenges or healthy recipes in a Facebook group. Finally, make a good night’s sleep a priority every day, aiming for 7 to 9 hours a night. When you’re rested, you can approach each day with a clear and calm mind. Find safe ways to connect with others. Staying connected is another critical component to your emotional health. Strengthening relationships with church staff and volunteers will benefit you as individuals and bolster the overall health of your organization. Depending where you live and vaccine availability, some people may be able to meet safely in person. Be sure to check CDC guidelines for the latest recommendations. When it’s not safe to meet in person, schedule virtual hangouts to help decrease feelings of loneliness. Strive to be fully present — no multi-tasking — whether your gatherings are in-person or virtual. This will help you foster an emotional connection and leave everyone feeling more fulfilled. The simple fact is people are seeking the solace and community of their local churches now more than ever. As the pandemic evolves, church leaders need to continually find ways to foster personal balance in a demanding world. It’s important to remember that healthy leaders are better able to lead their communities to be spiritually healthy. Rich Poirier is the president and CEO of Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I.1 (a stock insurer), which offers specialized insurance for religious organizations of all denominations, public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities, senior living facilities, secular and non-secular camps and conference centers, and nonprofit and human services organizations throughout the United States. 1Church Mutual is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20.  S.I. = a stock insurer.  

Leadership
  • Pioneers in prevention

    Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) has led the way on sexual abuse prevention training for more than two decades. Here’s a look at where it all started — and where it’s headed. DTS is lauded as “first in class” for its child sexual abuse risk prevention training, and you’ve played a big part. Tell me about that.  In 1999, I took over a long-standing course on legal and financial issues. In 2000, I added child sexual abuse risk as a topic, because our students need to pay attention to this if they’re going to be pastors in the local church.  Over the course of a 14-week semester, two of 28 class sessions were devoted to the topic. I invited a local youth minister to talk about what he experienced at two employer churches where occurrences happened. He was uniquely qualified to share what the churches did right, did wrong, and what they should be doing.  I also invited a private investigator to talk about sexual abuse registration requirements, background check nuances, and so on.  At what point did MinistrySafe become involved? After a few years, someone suggested I connect with [MinistrySafe Co-Founder] Greg Love. I told him about what I was doing in my class, and he told me what he was doing professionally. Soon, he replaced my youth ministry speaker. For lack of a better term, he lit the students’ hair on fire. They didn’t realize how the church is asleep at the switch on this risk. In many ways, I’ve also been running around with a lighter setting everybody’s hair on fire.  I invited Greg to speak at chapel, which is a pretty big deal at DTS. Students are required to attend, and speakers are generally a who’s-who of the evangelical world.  I believe it was [Seminary President] Dr. [Mark] Yarbrough’s first exposure to Greg; afterwards, he immediately moved towards having MinistrySafe implemented at his church and Christian school.  Dr. Darrell Bock was also there. He’s a professor here at DTS with worldwide influence and hosts a current issues podcast. He asked Greg and me to be guests.  Soon, we focused on what was next: the creation of a full-blown, three-credit-hour, master’s-level course.     Greg and Kimberlee [Norris, MinistrySafe Co-Founder] came to DTS and presented their material with our multiple-camera setup. This generated more than 18 hours of video, and the content was implemented into MinistrySafe Institute. Now, MinistrySafe Institute is the heart of our three-credit-hour master’s level course, which we’ve offered for four or five semesters, now.  What does your master’s-level sexual abuse prevention coursework entail?  The course is called “Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse” and was first offered in spring 2017. It’s the complete MinistrySafe Institute training.  There are two things that put the course over the top for students. The first is four two-hour live webinars during the semester with Greg and Kim, where students review study material and do a lot of case study work — real-life, real-case scenarios (presented generally, of course, for ethical reasons). Greg and Kim ask students to answer questions about those scenarios based on their training. Where is the church most vulnerable? What kind of an abuser would this person tend to be?  Second, as a final project, students create an effective safety system they can take back to their ministries. And many, many of their churches adopt MinistrySafe training. That’s a good thing. Now, DTS also requires every student to complete sexual abuse awareness training. When did it become mandatory, and what do they learn? About four years ago — parallel to all the efforts around the development of the master’s-level course — I pushed for mandatory training which required students to watch and pass a test related to the 70-minute “Sexual Abuse Awareness Training” video from MinistrySafe. At first, it was required around their third semester of study. Then, in spring 2019, Dr. George Hillman — Dean of Students at the time — made it mandatory during the first semester. Because the training video can be triggering for some students, prior to watching it, we also require them to view a resource video which alerts them to the counseling department and other resources available to them from DTS, if needed.  I understand you’re even offering sexual abuse prevention training to DTS alumni? Yes! We’re in the process of making MinistrySafe Institute access available to them. Dr. Yarbrough has said, “Ministry leaders cannot address a risk that they don’t understand.” What are some common misconceptions (or gaps in awareness)? First, my students need to accept the fact that this risk is real and widespread. In the church, we tend to trust. Some of that trust is misplaced based on naivete. Also, abusers have no ‘visual profile’ — they look like you and me. As a result, the abuser is often not someone we would suspect. We cannot recognize this risk visually; we must recognize this risk behaviorally. ‘Stranger-Danger’ has very limited effectiveness. Finally, when I have a conversation with a student or ministry leader, it is common to have that person assure me that the risk of sexual abuse is ‘under control’ at his or her church. When pressed as to how, it’s amazing how many ministry leaders depend exclusively on the criminal background check as a standalone solution to this problem. That’s a serious misconception, especially given some of the data related to the likelihood of the abuser having a criminal record: less than 10 percent. Churches need to do the background check, but not rely on the background check as the sole strategy for child protection. With so much study and training happening online, has DTS adjusted its sexual abuse prevention training options? Most of the sexual abuse curricula has historically been offered online. We will continue to find opportunities for live instruction, but we will leverage all forms of delivery to meet this serious and growing challenge. How do you envision DTS’s commitment to child sexual abuse prevention expanding or evolving? MinistrySafe has the 70-minute Read More >

Risk Management
  • SEMINARIES AND CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE RISK: Equipping ministry leaders

    By Gregory Love & Kimberlee Norris SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATIONS continue to make headlines, and subsequent media coverage indicates that ministry leaders tend to be unprepared for child sexual abuse issues. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness is not unusual. Earlier articles in this series introduced topics that church leaders must understand and apply, if children are to be effectively protected from this known risk. (To access them all, download the Stop Sexual Abuse eBook.) This writing is intended to guide ministry leaders to current resources providing a more thorough coverage of the critical concepts introduced earlier in the series.  As Christ-followers, attorneys and child sexual abuse experts, we created MinistrySafe to raise awareness and provide effective resources to prevent sexual abuse in ministry contexts. We believe it’s imperative that ministry leaders better understand sexual abuse in order to prevent it, properly respond to it, and provide appropriate care for abuse survivors.   How can future ministry leaders and current staff members be equipped to meet this need? Christ-based seminaries provide one logical avenue — academic institutions committed to equipping future ministry leaders to navigate environmental challenges, while pursuing a biblical mission. Without doubt, the issue of child sexual abuse is one of these challenges. Seminaries have begun to address this issue by offering or requiring relevant training and coursework.  Some seminaries have focused on curriculum and training regarding awareness and prevention; others have focused on counseling, emotional care and support. Some have focused on both.   This article attempts to highlight the efforts of various seminaries committed to equipping students and alumni with timely, effective training and resources aimed at sexual abuse prevention and healing. Seminary coursework As early as 2004, we began teaching in seminaries around the country. Many of these teaching opportunities were one or more class sessions within a course (i.e., Church Administration, Youth Ministry, Children’s Ministry, Church Development). With this time limitation, only a basic introduction of the risk was possible, convincing seminary students (and faculty) that child sexual abuse is real, relevant in Christ-based environments, and not merely a ‘Catholic problem’.  Students needed more. Seminary Solutions — MinistrySafe Institute To provide a more comprehensive evaluation of sexual abuse risk, MinistrySafe and Dallas Theological Seminary collaborated to create the first 3-hour graduate-level course — “Preventing Sexual Abuse in the Church” — offered every Spring semester since 2017. The course includes more than 16 hours of pre-recorded content, provided through Canvas in seven modules, including: • Understanding Sexual Abuse Risk in Ministry Contexts • Creating an Effective Safety System • Skillful Screening Processes and Training™ • Abuse Reporting Requirements • Allegations — Preparation and Response Plans • Legislation Related to Sexual Abuse / Changes in the Law • A Model of Care for Abuse Survivors The training content forming the basis of this course is now available through MinistrySafe Institute, or MSI [ministrysafeinstitute.com]. MSI materials may be integrated into academic environments as a standalone course or used within an existing course.  From a technical standpoint, MSI provides a Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)-Compliant Tool easily delivered through LTI-Compliant Platforms (i.e., Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, and so on).   In addition, MSI is available to current ministry staff members through the MinistrySafe control panel (for MinistrySafe members) or independently at MinistrySafeInstitute.com. AWARENESS AND PREVENTION Dallas Theological Seminary: first in class In 2015, Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) was the first to recognize the need for a comprehensive course specifically targeting child sexual abuse risk.  After various class sessions and trainings, Dean (now president) Mark Yarbrough and President (now Chancellor) Dr. Mark Bailey recognized a need to effectively equip students and faculty with sexual abuse awareness and training. DTS leaders believed that every student — regardless of degree plan — should have a basic understanding of sexual abuse risk, regardless of subsequent ministry position (whether missions, counseling, children’s ministry or administration). By Fall 2015, DTS required every student to complete Sexual Abuse Awareness Training. In Spring 2017, DTS offered a comprehensive 3-hour credit course limited to sexual abuse prevention and risk arising in ministry contexts. Offered each Spring since 2017, the course includes more than 16 hours of pre-recorded lecture content from sexual abuse experts, including preventative protocols, effective screening practices, child protection policy provisions and an appropriate model of care for abuse survivors. DTS is an example of a seminary embracing the challenge of confronting child sexual abuse risk and appropriate response; others have risen to the challenge, as well.   Southern Seminary: raising the bar While DTS was the first to create a dedicated course, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), the largest seminary in the United States, quickly followed suit with initiatives of its own. Recognizing the need to provide training and instruction confronting sexual abuse risk, SBTS leaders created a requirement that every Southern student — regardless of degree plan — must complete Sexual Abuse Awareness Training. Southern sought to instill the value of abuse prevention in its students early, beginning at new student orientation. In addition, every faculty and staff member is required to complete Sexual Abuse Awareness Training. Leading the way, SBTS President Dr. Albert Mohler was the first to complete training.   Furthermore, Southern pursued additional training to equip students to minister to abuse survivors, offering both extracurricular and curricular training. In 2018, Southern dedicated its Counsel the Word conference to child sexual abuse prevention and care for abuse survivors. The conference equipped and discussed healing strategies. In the Equip program, guest speaker Ellen Dykas provided guidance in strategies for provision of care for abuse survivors. Additionally, a dedicated course addressing crisis and trauma counseling was added to Southern’s requirements for an M.A. in Biblical Counseling. Seminaries: a growing response  With campuses in five states, a Global Campus and three extensions, Reformed Theological Seminary requires that all faculty, staff and students complete Sexual Abuse Awareness Training upon hire or before graduation.  As the first to complete training, RTS Chancellor and CEO Dr. Ligon Duncan lead by example, saying, “As shepherds we must be up to speed Read More >

Pastor-Friendly A/V
  • Storage made for Sundays

    By RaeAnn Slaybaugh If you’re like me, you’re not well-versed in “collaborative media storage.” You might assume (like I did), That’s for the AV or IT staff to think about. While it’s true your content creation and live production teams use collaborative media (video) storage most, there are three really good reasons that you — as a church executive — should be involved in its selection. But first: why churches? A member of Saddleback Church for nearly 20 years, Sean Busby, president and co-owner of DigitalGlue and creative.space, says the release of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life impacted him hugely. Given his 24/7/365 business commitments — servicing the broadcast television network industry with customers like FOX News, The CW, Trinity Broadcasting, and American Forces Network — Busby volunteered at the church in the only way he could manage: parking cars. In 2003, a friend introduced him to Life.Church pastor Bobby Gruenewald, who was committed to simultaneously sharing the sermon given at the main campus with two new locations. “I immediately realized we were on the same mission,” Busby says. Later that year, the Life.Church satellite network was up and running. Soon, others — Mars Hill in Seattle, Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, and Church Unlimited in Corpus Christi, Texas, to name just a few — inquired about building the same type of network. But there were only so many churches intent on going this expansive. Fast forward to today, with Busby’s release of an enterprise-based video storage system as simple to use as an iPhone and ideally suited to churches: the //ROGUE. “With it, a church’s video team is finally able to collaborate quicker, producing better and more content than ever before at a price that has never been possible,” he explains. “For me, that incredible feeling of giving back is back.” Room for improvement Before we dive deeper into this new option, let’s look at your current collaborative media setup. According to Busby, most churches don’t realize the impact that storage has on their content. Not having proper media storage ends up hurting the ability of editors and other creatives to make the best content. Instead of focusing on the message, teams are interrupted by laggy playback. When they want to collaborate, they have to copy data, which takes even more time away from focusing on what’s important. Technical problems become creative problems. Storage becomes “collaborative” once teams are able to work together without interrupting their creative flow. “A lot of different software goes into providing a seamless experience,” Busby explains. “And the manufacturers leave it up to the IT team or the church’s systems integrator to work it out.” Even with an IT staff, it can be difficult to diagnose issues as they arise. So, your church ends up paying for an engineer to troubleshoot in person. Which brings us to the first reason to consider a new kind of collaborative storage solution… Incentive #1: You don’t need an IT team to manage it As Busby explains, the creative.space software makes it easy for your team to manage day-to-day operations with advanced monitoring and analytics that trigger proactive support. Plus, creative.space support manages technical issues that would normally require a dedicated IT person to resolve. The user(s) you choose to give administrator rights will have full access to the system and deep control over space use and user management. “So, the question is more about who should be making decisions,” Busby points out. “Whoever it is, we can get them up-to-speed during the orientation call.”   Incentive #2: Getting collaborative storage right drives significant cost and time savings Usually, to get a collaborative storage solution, the storage alone costs tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then, there’s IT staff, the Ethernet network infrastructure, and the annual service contracts to pay for — not to mention “refreshing” your setup every five years. By contrast, creative.space bundles hardware, software and support into a single operational expense service (OpEx) paid monthly or annually. The cost often ends up being less expensive than just the annual support investment of traditional storage solutions. As mentioned earlier, Busby recommends the //ROGUE for most churches. Designed for two to four users, it features a portable design that can support either 48 or 64 terabytes (TB) of raw storage capacity; usable is 31TB and 41TB respectively. (For context, you could fit about 500 hours’ worth of video on 1 TB.) Uniquely, it’s the only system available for purchase — versus a managed service — and is currently offered at 0% interest financing for 24 months starting at $199 a month. This includes a free year of proactive creative.space support. For larger teams, the //AUTEUR storage solution is a creative.space managed service. The entry-level system starts at 120 TB for $995 a month based on a three-year contract paid annually. This system can be modularly upgraded to more than 1 petabyte (PB) raw in drive space. (1 PB is equal to 1,000 TB.) Incentive #3: The right solution ramps up your team’s creativity — and that drives engagement Collaborative storage is all about ease of use and removing interruptions on your team’s day-to-day activities caused by technology. “As the amount of data they’re working with grows, those interruptions start changing from minutes to hours or even days,” Busby cautions. With the right solution, they can maximize their limited time by focusing on the work that really matters and producing a higher-quality final product. This translates to better engagement with churchgoers — and increased efficiency to do it more often. By now, you’ve had a crash course on collaborative storage and why your current solution is almost certainly not the best possible option. If you want to talk about what a transition might look like for your church (in plain English!), reach out to the DigitalGlue team at 888.519.2021, email info@creative.space, or visit www.creative.space/contact.   RaeAnn Slaybaugh is Editor in Chief of Church Executive Magazine.

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