As parents of little girls, we find ourselves laying in their beds every night to pray, read, talk about the day, and at times comfort them in moments of fear or anxiety. We are thankful that the “boogeyman” does not exist in their little six- and eight-year-old minds; nevertheless, there are occasions when they become too scared to sleep in their beds at night.
In those moments, we strive to reassure them of two truths that help them regain the courage to go to sleep. The first truth is that “God protects this house.” From a very young age, we have tried to make sure our girls know that their ultimate protector, comforter, and advocate is the Lord. Even when bad things happen, and people make poor choices, God is good and always will be. The second truth that our girls have learned is that “Daddy helps protect our house too.” We have said this so many times that now our eight-year-old can simply answer the question, “Who protects our house?” with the answer, “God and Daddy!”
Obviously, the Heavenly Father has no equal in our girl’s earthly father (Casey most certainly agrees); and even though I am their daddy, I am not God. I am not omnipresent. I am not omnipotent or sovereign. Helping my girls keep the order of God-first and then Daddy has been a priority because we never want them to look to either of us the way they should look to God. Yet, in the practical, day-to-day routine of running a home, we have a part to play in the safety and wellbeing of our children. We, too, believe that God protects our home, but we still lock our doors. We still make sure the garage is closed before we go to bed. We still make sure the oven is off after we finish cooking dinner. We attempt to maintain a sense of order around the house (as much as one can with small humans running around) because we believe God has placed us here to be his helper in protecting our family.
The same reality rings true for those of us who have been set apart for the work of being God’s helpers in the church. I (Heath) have been in local church ministry to the next generation for more than seventeen years. I have served three unique and wonderful churches, all of which love God and make every effort to love people. Yet through the years, there is one thing I have learned — we can love people well and still be negligent in the way we serve and care for them, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Like our family, God is the protector of His church (Matt. 6:18; John 17:15; 2 Thess. 3:3). Equally, just as parents have been commissioned to be the under-guardians of our homes and our children (Matt. 18:5-6; 19:14), God has also called us to make every effort of protecting those we serve week after week in the local church. We fully believe that the same way God will hold parents accountable for the manner in which we lead our homes, He will hold those of us in church leadership responsible for the way we lead in our ministries (Acts 20:28; James 3:1).
Just as we do not wait for a burglar to break in or for a child to grab the pot of boiling water off the stove, we must also be preventative and proactive with creating and establishing safeguards in the church. So often, we wait until someone has been metaphorically burned or something precious has been taken from the innocent to react. Let’s stop reacting and start responding to the present reality: we live and minister among sinners in a broken world. God has placed us exactly where we are, to do everything we can to point children and adults alike to Him, while creating and maintaining havens of love, comfort, and safety.
So, church and ministry leaders, lock your doors. Close the garage. Make sure the oven is turned off, and your house is in order. Make policies and establish procedures that ensure a safe and Christ-honoring environment. Take the time to ask yourself the hard questions, make necessary changes, vet and train your leaders, and allow yourself to be held accountable. Let it never be said of us, or our ministries, that someone was wounded physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or neglectfully under our watch. Instead, let’s join with the Sovereign Protector and do everything under His power to safeguard and protect those whom we are blessed to serve and lead.