ROGERS, Ark. – Several Arkansas Baptists recently gathered at the Northwest Arkansas Ministry Center in Rogers for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention’s (ABSC) regional Prepare and Protect Training.  

The training, focused on sex abuse awareness and response, was for church pastoral and administrative staff and lay leaders, particularly those who work with children. 

Christa Neal, chairperson of the ABSC Sexual Abuse Response and Resource Team (SARRT) and Title IX Coordinator for Ouachita Baptist University, was the featured speaker. She shared information on prevention and policies, mandated reporting, and after care, how to respond in a trauma care way.  

“When someone chooses to perpetrate evil against another person the ripple effects are large. It can impact so many people. We want to be part of responding well, caring and loving people, and making sure that our churches are safe,” Neal said.  

She said their goal is to be a resource for churches. That includes providing training and educating churches on having policies in place and reporting.  

“The idea is to be a resource, to be helpful to people that want to get this right and want to be able to know that they are prepared,” she said. “It is much better to have policies and procedures in place and to know how we are going to help those that are hurting before a crisis has happened. We want people to know, to be educated on this and we don’t want this to be something that is not talked about. You have to talk about it, and you have to keep on talking about it.”  

ABSC President and Chairman of the Arkansas Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force Brad Lewter said the training was well attended and touted Neal’s presentation. The training had 35 attendees representing 11 different churches. Three associational missionaries were also in attendance.  

“I think the information was helpful and it definitely accomplished the goal of not just training but showing churches that there is a need for this, and it is something they should be doing,” Lewter said. “It affirmed, too, that people want to know about this. The stats tell us that this is unfortunately happening in the life of the church. God called us to love people, to care for people, and unfortunately, we have to be prepared to deal with one of the great evils in the world and that is sex abuse. And the fact that it happens in the life of the church is just even more sad.”  

The ABSC and SARRT want to walk alongside churches as they prepare to prevent abuse and protect those most vulnerable, respond appropriately when allegations are made, and actively love those impacted by abuse. 

“This is one of those issues you can’t be on the wrong side of,” Lewter said. “You can have good intentions and your heart can be right but at the end of the day, this is something that requires training so that you handle it appropriately, legally and biblically.”  

The next Prepare and Protect Training is scheduled from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 29 at the ABSC building, 10 Remington Drive, in Little Rock. Pre-registration is not required but is encouraged.  

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