From the moment you walked through the doors of the church two years ago, you and your family instantly felt at home. The love and support that enveloped you were exactly what you needed at that time in your lives. The teaching continued to be relevant and inspiring. Your family kept learning, growing and connecting. It continued to be the epitome of the kind of church you had been desperately eager to find.
Just below the surface, however, there was an undercurrent that seemed to have gone unnoticed"at least temporarily. Unexpectedly you get an e-mail with no details other than a time and date of a meeting that is only for the adult members of the congregation. At the meeting, an announcement is made that a serious offense has been committed by key staff members and that immediate action is needed to begin rebuilding the church's foundation.
Shock, disbelief and disappointment spread throughout the community, and eventually your children begin asking questions. You realize what happened will have a direct impact on them. You want to protect your kids from the harsh reality they're about to face, but you also want to make sure they're able to move through the turmoil and confusion in the healthiest way possible. But how do you go about doing that? What can you do to help your children make sense of the breach of trust that occurred in the one place that was to them impenetrable?
Spend time seeking God's wisdom and discernment regarding the best way for you to handle the situation as well as how to talk to your family about what happened. Pray, too, for guidance, peace and healing for your church and its members. When a foundation is damaged, the entire structure is at risk of collapse. Ask God to protect his house and provide the blueprint for repairing the groundwork.
2. Seek support
It's often difficult to have a clear perspective when you've been affected by a major life-changing event. Surround yourself with trusted spiritual leaders who have experience in guiding families through crises of this magnitude. Sometimes it takes the support of people outside of the situation to help bring clarity and direction.
Finding strength and encouragement from other members of the church who are also dealing with the aftermath of the adversity can bring comfort to your family as well. Tragedy has a way of bringing people together and building relationships that otherwise may have never been formed.
3. Have a family meeting
Set a time to bring everyone together as soon as possible to talk about what happened. Make sure there are no sports or play dates scheduled so that you'll have as much time as you need to work through all the issues that may arise. Reassure your family that regardless of any circumstances surrounding the offense, together you will all heal, grow and keep the faith.
4. Be honest
Tell your children as much age-appropriate information as is necessary. Younger kids can easily become overwhelmed by too many details, yet honesty is imperative whenever questions are being answered. Open communication leads to quicker and healthier resolutions, whereas hiding the truth from children of any age often introduces distrust into the family dynamic.
Tweens and teens are able to comprehend information on higher levels. By guiding them to an understanding of the consequences that followed the actions, they'll be better equipped to make empowered choices if they ever find themselves in similar situations. This is not only a time of spiritual growth for your family, it's also an opportunity to build character and integrity in your children as well.
5. Meet regularly
Have on-going and impromptu conversations about the impact the offense has had on the church and on your family. Continually discuss ways each of you has seen God's hand at work in the situation, as well as any lingering confusion or fears. Making family time a priority also strengthens bonds and accountability between you and your children and provides an environment for them to feel safe and loved.
6. Practice forgiveness
It's God's desire for each one of us to fully experience the love and the passion he has for us. When anything stands in the way of that, he knows exactly how to refocus our attention and remove the obstacles that are keeping us from him. Understanding the offense that occurred in your church was God's way of shining light into the darkness that was blocking his view and can help you and your family forgive those who were involved.
Forgiveness frees you and your family from the bondage of the past. The people who committed the offense can then be released from being judged for their mistakes and are given a chance to use their stories as a testimony of God's grace, mercy, love and forgiveness.