Domestic Violence: how the church can help

 
Helen Thorne | 22 Mar 2014

There are no quick fixes to the problems of domestic violence but there are things a local church community can do to help prevent it and help respond to it well. Here are our top tips for ways to be proactive:

Raise awareness

It doesn’t take much to put a notice on the church noticeboard, website or noticesheet. It just takes a line … Make sure people know that if they are affected by domestic violence – either as an abuser or by being abused – the leadership of the church are willing to talk with them. If it’s appropriate to flag up the subject in a Bible study or sermon, that can be helpful and marriage prep courses are a great place to start the conversation too.

Create a culture of openness

Domestic violence (and every other sin) thrives on secrecy and in churches where everyone answers the “how are you?” question with the word, “fine”, destructive behaviours are able to thrive. Change can start with us. When someone we trust asks us how we are, let’s be honest! Then, when we ask them, they are more likely to be honest with us! Encourage people in Bible reading or prayer partnerships to share deeply.

Have a plan

All churches have a child protection policy, many now also have a vulnerable adults policy. This isn’t about creating more bureaucracy, it’s about having a document that sets out what to do if domestic violence or other similar situations arise. It’s always a good idea to get the general plan sorted before the crisis hits! It’s useful to have helpline numbers handy and an idea of who has a spare room that could be used in a crisis. And some churches have been known to allow abused people (who have not yet made the decision to leave their partner) to keep things like passports and credit cards in the church safe so, when they do get to the point of leaving, they have all the legal documents they need in a helpful place.

Equip a good range of people with biblical, pastoral skills

While, secular specialists can be immensely useful when it comes to supporting those who have been abused or who have abused others, engaging with God, as his Spirit illuminates his word, is the place where real transformation lies. Make sure you have a range of men and women in your congregation who have a good understanding of pastoral care. You could start with an introduction to Pastoral Care course or dip into a book like, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.

Pray

Pray for healthy, godly marriages. Pray for spiritual growth in your brothers and sisters. Pray for God to change hearts, heal emotional wounds and bring good in the lives of those who have been impacted by abuse.

Helen Thorne

Helen Thorne is Director of Training and Resources at Biblical Counselling UK. She formerly worked with the London City Mission and has written Hope in an Anxious World, Purity Is Possible, Walking with Domestic Abuse Sufferers and 5 Things to Pray for Your City. She attends Dundonald Church in Raynes Park, London.