Don’t try to ignore crime.
It doesn’t exist in an isolated realm of dark alleys, prisons or “other” areas of town. They affect every community, every congregation, everyone.
In your own church, you’ll find not only victims of crime. You’ll find those who commit crimes, former offenders, and their families. You’ll find police, legal professionals, others in the criminal justice field, as well as their family members and friends.
In addition to physical wounds and emotional or financial loss, there may be feelings of violation, anger, fear, hatred, worry, sorrow, guilt, shame or simple stress.
So what are we to do?
Find a more positive way to respond.
As an important part of caring for our community, Texas Baptists and others are turning to a more holistic approach in dealing with crime and violence – restorative justice.
Restorative justice is a different way of looking at justice – one that reflects biblical principles by emphasizing the importance of repairing the harm caused by or revealed by criminal behavior. The best way to accomplish this is through cooperative practices and programs that:
Repair harm: Identify those injured and work to restore them.
Involve all stakeholders: Let those most directly involved and affected by crime participate fully in the response, if they wish.
Transform traditional government/community relationships: When responding to crimes, let government (legal authority) be the entity that preserves a just public order, while allowing the community (concerned local people) to build and maintain a just peace.
Restore justice through ministry.
Let your church implement the concepts of restorative justice. These may range from development of sensitivity in emotional crises to preparation for community emergency response teams. You’ll also find additional opportunities to intersect with the criminal justice community.
In your congregation: Recognize that everyone touched by crime — whether as victim or perpetrator or family member of either —may feel shame or pain and need an intensive caring ministry touch.
In the courts: Church members who companion with victims during a trial can provide an incarnational presence of Christ to comfort those who otherwise may be alone at this difficult time.
In your law enforcement agencies: Volunteering as a chaplain, providing simple helps such as water bottles and care packages for officers, thank you notes from children’s Sunday School classes — all are positive ways to show support for and connection with local law enforcement.
In crisis/emergency situations: Victim relief and crisis intervention teams can provide everything from emotional support via companioning to the practical repair of a broken window.
In communitywide events: Work with local law enforcement, government and churches in events focused on intervention, crime prevention and development for children and families affected by the criminal justice system.
Among the formerly incarcerated and their families: Angel Tree of Prison Fellowship, a ministry to children (at Christmas or all year
round); youth-focused discipleship; Amachi mentoring or youth-focused ministries through the Texas Youth Commission or local county facilities; Bible Study and other direct ministry with adult inmates incarcerated in more than 110 units across Texas.
With re-entry of the formerly incarcerated: Create a loving path of re-entry to nurture the faith of prisoners returning to society, with a church community of believers to assist them and their families to return to their community.
In your neighborhoods: Community members can organize to provide mediated, non-adversarial responses to problem behaviors by youth, young adults and others living in your area to strengthen informal social controls and improve quality of life. Neighborhood interventions may occur before or after the conduct comes to the attention of justice agencies.
Make empathy an essential part of your response.
What if it were your spouse, your child, your neighbor troubled by crime or violence? In a very real sense, it is. Yet even if you’re ready to take on any ministry, this may sound too complex to handle. But with the help of God and involvement of your church leadership, your church can offer ministries that are proving successful in healing the wounds of crime.
Take a positive step toward caring for our community.
Learn more about how to address these issues in your life, family, church, neighborhood or city. Texas Baptists work with a number of ministries focused on these efforts. Let us help connect you with experts in restorative justice ministries.