Study: Younger Churchgoers Have Low Tolerance for Sexual Misconduct

ChurchLeaders | 5/23/2019 | Staff
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Churches, like other American institutions, continue grappling with the risks of sexual abuse and the fallout for victims. According to a new study from LifeWay Research, most people in the pews feel safe at their own church but believe the abuse crisis isn’t over. Members also tend to believe that their own churches are now better prepared and equipped to protect children. And younger churchgoers indicate they’re less likely to tolerate sexual misconduct and more likely to leave a church because of it.

For its “2019 Sexual Misconduct and Churchgoers Study,” LifeWay surveyed 1,815 Protestant adults, including 457 Southern Baptists, asking about their experiences and perceptions of abuse. The sexual abuse advisory group established by Southern Baptist President J.D. Greear encouraged LifeWay to conduct the survey. Denominational leaders have been calling for change in light of an abuse scandal that has received extensive media coverage.

People - Abuse - Kind - Importance - Churches

“Protecting people from abuse of any kind should be of utmost importance to churches,” says Brad Waggoner, acting CEO of study sponsor LifeWay Christian Resources. “It’s imperative churches are safe places for people to hear the gospel and grow in their walk with Jesus Christ.”

Most survey respondents are confident that their own churches are safe. Ninety-three percent say adults at their church are protected against sexual assault, and 94 percent say children and teens are protected there.

Result - Abuse - Churchgoers - Perceptions - Congregation

As a result, when abuse comes to light, churchgoers often struggle with their perceptions about the congregation as a safe haven. “Far too often,” says abuse survivor Joshua Pease, “this leads to minimization, victim blaming, and denial.”

Another key finding: One-third (32 percent) of Protestant churchgoers say they believe many more pastors have sexually abused children or teenagers than have been reported. And 29 percent say the same thing about sexual abuse toward adults.

Kind - Sense

“There is kind of that sense that there’s...
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