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The suggestions outlined in this section arise from the experience of The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services in conducting clergy training events across the country over several years.
1. Subject Matter
A broad-based training event on crime victim assistance would cover at least an elementary overview of:
The first decision to make is whether a training event should cover all areas or only one or two. To cover all areas, treatment must be elementary giving only basic information on each. Dealing with fewer areas would, of course, result in more detailed treatment. There are advantages both ways.
The advantage of covering all facets of victimization is that clergy and religious leaders need to be aware of its many aspects, and have some elementary information on how to respond to each one, even if the response is merely to refer to proper service provider, and support the victim through the assistance process.
The advantage of limiting the training to only one or two areas of victimization is that a more detailed consideration of the issues can be given resulting in a better, more informed response.
2. The Program
The program can be a combination of plenary sessions and workshops, using local victim service providers and clergy knowledgeable in victim assistance as presenters. Almost all areas of the country now have good people who work daily in the field. The local district attorney's office or law enforcement agency can advise of the resources for each area of victimization. Also there are national resources (listed after each section of this manual) which can provide information as to whom to contact in their particular discipline.
A keynote speaker may also be desirable. A clergyperson who works with victims is probably preferable, but other known leaders in the victim assistance movement who are sympathetic to the involvement of the religious community can also be used very effectively. Again, the national resources can provide possibilities.
Another entirely different approach to clergy in-service training is to engage a trainer to put on the entire program. The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services can provide this service, either by giving a basic treatment of the entire spectrum of victimization or by treating in more depth one or two selected areas. Trainers from this organization also have an understanding of the various theological nuances in the religious community and are able to speak to victim issues without offending.
Also, many local victim service agencies can also provide trainers in the specific field in which they work. It is important that such trainers have a general understanding of the religious community in all of its variety, and are willing to relate to every type of congregational leader.
3. Length of the Event
The next consideration is the length of the training event, whether one day, a day and an evening, or longer.
The longer the event, the fewer the number of clergy and religious leaders who will probably be able to attend. However, a day and an evening, each complete in itself, but not repetitive, will probably draw two separate groups (with some attending both), resulting in greater overall attendance.
4. Registration Charge
Generally, it is good to keep the cost as low as possible. The charge should be keyed to the expenses. Ideally the event should break even.
If presenters from local service provider and law enforcement agencies are willing to participate without charge as an outreach of their programs, the charge can be kept down.
Donation of a facility also helps. Private (for profit) hospitals are often willing to do this, and some, if they receive some acknowledgment in the publicity, are even willing to pick up the cost of the meals. Some schools and colleges will provide space merely for the cost of custodial service and utilities. Most hotels charge for space, but some will donate the room or rooms if they obtain the meal contract.
Sometimes a corporation, foundation or denomination will contribute to the costs of such an event. However, even if the event is totally funded, a small registration charge should be made. People tend to have a greater appreciation of an event for which there is a cost. Any excess funds could always be contributed back to the agencies or congregations of the presenters, or held as a fund for follow-up event.
Also, The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services (303) 333-8810 has other options available for funding of such training events.
A neutral site is preferable. There are clergy who have difficulty relating to secular service providers, but there are many more who have difficulty relating to clergy of other faith stances. Religious differences are strong. Among Christians alone there are fundamentalists, evangelicals, liberals, "mainliners" (Catholic and Protestant) and independents. Beyond this there are the "extra-biblical" religions which hold texts other than the Bible as equally inspired and authoritative. Also to be given important consideration are those of faiths other than Judeo-Christian (Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, etc.).
One year The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services conducted four training events under the Clergy In-Service Training Initiative. One was in a Christian church, one was in a college, one was in a hotel and one was in a Jewish synagogue. The two trainings with the largest attendance were at the hotel and the college. Site may not have been the only contributing factor in the variation of attendance, but it seemed to be one.
There are many land mines along the way towards conducting a clergy training event. One can be avoided by selecting a neutral site such as a hospital, college, hotel, retreat center (which hosts many types of groups), conference center or a corporate conference room. Some of these may even donate space. (See note above on costs.)
It is best to keep meals simple in order to lower the costs. Hotels, hospitals and conference centers may have their own food service. Good caterers are always available and will work within the selected budget.
Meats should be avoided. Some religions encourage vegetarianism, and others do not allow the eating of ham or pork. If meat is offered it is safest to stick with the chicken or fish, and to be certain to also offer a vegetarian choice.
It should be kept in mind that when hotels and some catering services quote a price, it may or may not include tax and gratuity. This will be charged, however, regardless of the original quote. Therefore it should be included in the initial agreement. These items can increase the cost by 18 to 20%.
Coffee, tea and possibly rolls and muffins in the morning, and fruit, sodas or juice in the afternoon contribute to the enjoyment of the event. If offered, they must, of course, be considered in the overall cost.
It is necessary to have an address to which pre-registrations may be sent. Preferably this should be the office of one of the planning committee members which has computer capability. This enables acknowledgment and alphabetization.
A sufficient number of volunteers should be enlisted for on-site registration. It is helpful to have name tags of pre-registrants made up beforehand. Alphabetization of advance registration is essential.
The only essential handout at registration is a schedule for the day. This can be expanded by including all of the handout material of the presenters, and biographical information on them if desired, in one packet. Or the presenters can give out their own handouts at each workshop.
Note: If the training covers all aspects of victimization, it is probable that registrants will be able to attend only two or three of the possible seven workshops offered. In this event, handouts from the other workshops should be made available to all.
The best days for clergy in-service trainings seem to be Tuesday or Thursday. Monday, and in some cases Friday, is often a day off for clergy. Also, Friday is the beginning of Jewish Sabbath. Friday and Saturday are also often preparation days. Wednesday is frequently a church activity day (but an acceptable third choice). Weekends, of course, are generally not advisable. Avoid religious holidays, particularly Lent, Passover, Easter, Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, Hanukkah and the Christmas holidays.
10. Promotion and Publicity
How to get clergy and religious leaders to attend? This is the big one! There are many stories of great conferences that have been planned for clergy and the religious community, but there were not enough registrations to justify continuing. Some methods that can generate good participation are listed below.
a. From the beginning include clergy and religious leaders in the planning process. It is never as effective for others to totally plan a program for the religious. Clergy can give leads into their denominational structure and encourage their peers to attend. They also can give good advice on what will and what will not work.
In every community there are clergy who are interested in the needs of victims. The best leads to these come from the victim assistance providers. They have heard from these clergy. Also, many on the staffs of these agencies are active in their own congregations, and can encourage their own minister, priest, rabbi, or imam to help in the project.
b. There are many besides clergy in congregations who need to be aware of the needs of victims, and who can assist. These include counselors, teachers, associate pastors, priests or rabbis, youth workers, religious educators, interested lay persons. Expand the invitation to include all of these.
Of course, it is most helpful if the senior pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam attends and learns of these issues first hand. He or she can lend support to any congregational effort that may arise out of the conference. This support can take several forms: preaching on the subject, being aware of the indicators, and looking for them in pastoral counseling, encouraging assistance programs, etc.
c. Credibility is important. Clergy receive volumes of invitations to varied events. The training must be something that touches his or her needs, and it must be presented by known agencies. Governmental backing is helpful (e.g., District Attorney's office, law enforcement or state or local social services).
It is good to get sponsors from various groups. These could include denominational offices and ministerial and rabbinical associations. It is important that the associations include both the conservative and the more liberal clergy. Often there are different associations for each. Sponsors can also include hospitals, seminaries, religious-based colleges, Bible schools, victim service provider agencies (both public and private) and interested businesses and corporations.
d. Clergy should be part of the training program. Often they can be workshop leaders along with victim service providers. Clergy will see the victim assistance issues from the spiritual perspective, and an understanding of the dynamics necessary for
congregational involvement. Clergy who are part of the program should have some background in, and understanding of crime victim assistance.
e. "Save-the-Date" cards, mailed out well in advance, are helpful. The brighter and more eye catching the color the better. This card allows the recipient to at least tentatively mark the event down in his or her calendar. It should also outline the issues to be covered and advise that detailed information will follow.
f. A brochure should be developed that provides the date of the event, time, location (possibly with a map), purpose of the training, outline of the program, presenters, sponsors, cost, pre-registration deadline, whether or not registrations will be accepted by phone or at the door, a return registration form with address and phone of the registrar. If possible the brochure should not be too "busy." There should be white space.
g. Mailing lists are crucial. Some ministerial associations have lists. If at all possible, lists should have the names of the pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam. Denominational directories are the best source for this. However, there are many independent churches (some very large) that are not in such directories. The most complete list of all congregations is in the Yellow Pages. Be sure to look under "Synagogues," Mosques" and "Religions and Religious Organizations" as well as under "Churches." Some from this source have clergy names; many do not. None have zip codes. Obtaining these from a zip code directory is a volunteer job.
Associations are also a good source. Some of these are the local affiliates of The National Sunday School Association, National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches and the National Council of Christians and Jews.
h. The most effective method of assuring a good attendance is through follow-up phone calls. This is also the most difficult to implement. A method by which each volunteer has only to make a very few calls to people with whom he or she feels comfortable is the best. The call need not be difficult, simply, "Did you receive the information on the conference? Had you planned to attend? Do you have any questions?"
Attempts to involve the religious community in victim services can be very rewarding. Many people of faith are anxious to learn, to improve their responses, and to institute effective programs. The people of God are a great potential resource for victim assistance.