to Serve the Least
An article in a series on Child Protection
The beginning of a new year is a time for resolutions. Many of us resolve what to do or not do during the ensuing year. This is a very old tradition. For thousands of years, it has been done on the first day of each year. What should we, as a Church Safety Ministry, resolve to do in AD 2021? Taking the phrases “No child left behind” and “lives matter” as examples, I propose that we resolve to serve the least of those among us.
In the Bible
- No one is too little or insignificant to matter:
- Do not discriminate against the disabled, but give them consideration:
- Be fair and impartial to the poor:
- Consider those who are disadvantaged through no fault of their own:
In the News
Wheaton, Illinois, September 2020 - During the current pandemic, persons at extreme risk suffer from social isolation, even in churches. A Wheaton College faculty member tells how her Downs son is left behind as churches reopen.
Delta State, Nigeria, August 23, 2020 - A new pastor in a local church decided to evict a blind widow who had been living on church property for many years. Another pastor, who was in Ireland at the time, learned of her story, as reported in Vanguard (a Nigerian newspaper). He contacted a local pastor and had him secure a place for the blind widow, where she now lives.
Seattle, Washington, 1984-2010 - A man who was severely disabled with cerebral palsy was active in the community, a scholar at a local college, a writer, and a member of the worship team at church. All this was done while in a motorized wheelchair and typing out whatever he said.
Denver, Colorado, 2008 - In her presentation, Security Concerns For Churches: The Role Of Greeters and Ushers, Tina Lewis Rowe says, "You may be a senior-aged member or have a disability or illness…" There are Church Safety Ministry roles in which older persons and those with disabilities can serve.
Oceanside, California, November 2006 - A young man with epilepsy and single-side cerebral palsy was the drummer for the choir in his church. He was 26 then, and would now be 40.
Sheepdog Church Security's free downloadable special resource for this month is "A Code to Live By: A Childcare Giver's Code of Conduct for Your Church's Safety Ministry." Click *HERE* to get it. You'll also be subscribed to the monthly newsletter The Church Guardian and our weekly email updates. More information on Child Protection can be found in the Church Security Guide.
Serving the Least
Jesus said that we will be judged by how we serve even "the least of these my brothers." At the least, "my brothers" means those in the church, "of these" means those in need (as described in the parable), and "the least" means those who are least in talent, power, strength, wealth, position, social status, size, age, and ability. It also includes those with disabilities. His statement summarizes what the Old Testament said many times about the treatment of disadvantaged persons. These same considerations are reinforced in the New Testament.
Several commentators point out that the circumstances point to times of persecution, and that nations (racial and ethnic groups) are the ones being judged. However, what Jesus said is applicable at all times, and believers are individually and corporately held accountable. For example, in James 2:1-9, Jesus' half-brother wrote about how a congregation might treat a poor person and a wealthy one differently. He says, "But if you show partiality, you are committing sin" (v. 9).
The real question for us is, "How can we serve the least?" There's not enough space to fully cover this, but there are a few areas a Church Safety Ministry can address. We can show respect to all. We can protect the vulnerable. And we can find ways for the elderly and those with disabilities to serve.
Respect for All
The first commandment for criminal law is, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image" (Gen. 9:6, emphasis mine). The image of God in humans is not only the basis of capital punishment for murder, it is also the basis of respect for all persons, no matter their national/ethnic/racial origins, nor their social/economic status, nor their abilities or lack thereof. Peter said, "God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34). Therefore, we should go beyond just "being respectful" to being genuinely interested in people as persons. This respect is itself the basis for protecting the vulnerable and providing opportunities for service.
Protect the Vulnerable
When we commit to promoting the safety and security of those in the church, this especially means the most vulnerable: children, youth, disabled adults and the elderly. This protection includes not letting others abuse them or otherwise take unfair advantage of them. An article in the SDCS Security Guide is "Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Church." Sheepdog Church Security also has a training course focused on the safety of the youngest: "Protecting Children from Abuse v4."
From what are we to protect the vulnerable? We are to:
- Protect children and youth from sexual abuse.
- Protect young children from abduction, whether it is by strangers or by non-custodial relatives.
- Protect employees and volunteers from sexual harassment.
- Protect disabled persons from
- Protect cognitively disabled persons from fraud.
- Protect older persons from discrimination and several kinds of elder abuse.
In any of these situations, we need to know what to be aware of and how to address the issues. There are also steps we can take to prevent or respond to abuse.
Let Them Serve
We can be friendly, kind, and considerate to those who are the least, but that is not enough. The church should provide opportunities for participation in the life of the congregation. For some, this may be as part of the Church Safety Ministry.
Let's start at the top. Physically disabled persons who are intelligent, knowledgeable, wise, discrete, and spiritually qualified may serve on the Safety Committee. Some of them have valuable backgrounds and experience. A disabled military or law enforcement veteran can be a Safety Director if he or she can still go where needed and communicate effectively and is otherwise qualified.
If we include ushers and greeters as members or auxiliaries of the Safety Team, these can include many disabled persons who are still able to do these jobs. They can be trained, like other Safety Team members, to watch for signs of abuse, developing disruption, theft, suspicious activity, and impending armed attacks. They could also call team members to assist someone in need or address an urgent safety issue. A Downs Syndrome adult may be a greeter if paired with someone trained as a watcher.
Some disabled persons are able to be Safety Team members. Some accommodations may be necessary, but you'd be surprised by what many impaired people can do. Most of us have seen amputees and paralytics who run circles around "normal" people. If you know people with cerebral palsy or epilepsy, you probably know achievers.
Autism is harder to understand and deal with, mostly because it is an unseen disability having more to do with building relationships and/or dealing with stimuli and situations, as well as the wide range of severity. It requires a lot of empathy, understanding, and work to fit autistic persons into certain roles. However, these may be suitable to work with the Church Safety Team in some capacity, and some of them may excel.
We resolve that in 2021 we will serve the least among us by respecting them, promoting their safety, protecting them from abuse, and accepting their service.
There Is More
For January, there are two more articles on protecting children and vulnerable adults: "Wolves among the Lambs" (Alert for Abuse) and "With Our Wings" (How to Protect the Vulnerable). The final article will focus on an active shooter incident.
- Kris P. Moloney, "Protecting Children from Abuse v4," Sheepdog Church Security: Training Bundle (Classroom) [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/protecting-children-from-sexual-abuse-in-the-church-training-bundle]; Individual Training (Online) [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/protecting-children-from-sexual-abuse-in-the-church].
- Rochelle Scheuermann, "Churches and the Vulnerable in the Time of COVID-19," Christianity Today, September 2020 [https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/september/churches-and-vulnerable-in-time-of-covid-19.html].
- Funmi Ajumobi, "Blind widow: Man of God helped me after church threw me out of home," Vanguard, November 29, 2020 [https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/11/blind-widow-man-of-god-helped-me-after-church-threw-me-out-of-home/].
- Norman Ray Rogers (October 26, 1937 - May 23, 2010), Find A Grave (includes the Seattle Times obituary, June 4, 2010) [https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/124874839/norman-ray-rogers].
- Tina Lewis Rowe, "Security Concerns For Churches: The Role Of Greeters and Ushers," prepared for The River Conference of the Free Methodist Church, USA, 2008, page 2 [http://storage.cloversites.com/theriverconference/documents/The%20Greeter%20and%20Usher%20Role%20In%20Church%20Security.pdf].
- Shannon Wingard, "Disabled drummer carries Oceanside church choir," The North County Times, re-posted in the Hartford Courant, November 11, 2006 [https://www.courant.com/sdut-disabled-drummer-carries-oceanside-church-choir-2006nov11-story.html].
- Kris P. Moloney, "A Code to Live By: A Childcare Giver's Code of Conduct for Your Church's Safety Ministry," Sheepdog Church Security [https://sheepdog-church-security.ck.page/f512da9e07].
- Kris Moloney, "Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Church," Sheepdog Church Security [https://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/child-and-vulnerable-adults/].