Houston’s First Baptist Church is offering a support group on sexual assault to help victims recognize what was done to them, and free themselves from shame.
The counselor-led group, which is due to begin in January at the Texas megachurch, also seeks to offer a Biblical perspective on how the life and ministry of Jesus Christ can help those in pain.
Adam Mason, Minister of Counseling Services, and Cynthia Barkley, Counseling Ministry Associate, spoke on the phone Monday with The Christian Post about the objectives and aspirations of the support group.
“I think the main thing that we want to demonstrate to our church members is that the church sees and cares about all sorts of pain that they are going through. [With] this particular topic coming to the forefront, and not just in the national news and media — the popular culture as well — [it] seems like the church should have a response,” Mason said.
“If the church is going to be relevant to modern culture, then we need to have our finger on the pulse of society. We need to be able to respond in a compassionate way, in a way that is Christ-centered, in a way that is loving,” but also in a way that is “clinical and competent as well,” he added.
Mason, who is both an ordained minister of Christian counseling in the Southern Baptist church and a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas, indicated that the purpose of the group is to show that the church cares and has the resources to serve as an entry point for victims of sexual assault.
The church can “serve as a referral source both to additional groups, or individual counseling. We are fortunate that our church does have a professional counseling center that we can refer folks to. But we also have strong relations with Christian counselors in the community” and can refer people to them as well, he explained.
Mason pointed out that the support group is open to anyone in the community, though it is targeted toward women.
“Although we recognize that men are also victims of sexual assault, this initial group is going to be targeted at women who identify themselves as the victims of some form of sexual assault. Whether they are Christian or not, whether they are church members or not, we don’t care,” he added.
The Minister of Counseling Services revealed that it was his conversation with Gregg Matte, the senior pastor of First Baptist Houston, which launched the idea for the support group.
He said that Matte was “really disturbed by the amount of sexual abuse” that was being uncovered in society, and approached him during the hearings for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Matte was concerned what effect the public hearing was having on women who had been the victims of sexual assault, he noted.
The two discussed if it was relevant for the church to address topics of sexual abuse, and if so, what that would look like. It was through that conversation that they decided the best way with the resources they had was to offer support, therapy groups, and start conversations.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Stoyan Zaimov