Beyond Writing a Check: How Churches Can Help End Human Trafficking
In the last month, I’ve talked with 3 faith communities about their desire to engage in the movement to end human trafficking. They’ve each wondered where to begin and how their members could do something. Churches rarely want to just write a check or read a book. They want to put action to their faith. The 3 churches I am referring to represent towns of 6000, 150,000 and a mega city, but I told each of them the same thing:
- The first step any group of people should take is to educate themselves. This includes human trafficking education, but more importantly, refers to the invaluable process of learning about the work happening around them. Who are the vulnerable in their area and therefore, what kind of trafficking is a problem? Labor trafficking? Sex trafficking? Domestic Servitude? Who is working around this issue already? What does Law Enforcement think? Are there social services, NGOs, clubs, or churches hosting trainings, events, speakers, etc. around the issue?
- Once a group knows who is doing what, they can ask two vital questions: 1) What are they doing well and 2) What are the gaps?
- A better understanding of the community gaps is essential. Now the church should look at its congregation and identify who they are and how they are uniquely equipped to meet those needs. Those who are most passionate should be designated point people to connect with community leaders and strategize how to leverage the church’s resources to meet the identified needs.
- Now, in sustained partnership and collaboration with the community, the church can get involved in the work to end human trafficking.
Here are some suggestions I’ve given church leaders on what the answer to #3 might be:
- hey, your building is near a strip of motels with a lot of prostitution and trafficking, maybe you provide soap with the hotline # on it, or rent a permanent hospitality room on Friday nights
- local victim advocates need emergency bags for victims and the nearby shelter has a list of items you could collect
- the investigator could use volunteers to help scour backpage ads for runaways and minors
- DHS needs treatment foster families to place victims of sex trafficking, or the city needs host families to take kids who would otherwise be on the streets, or raise up a team of mentors to work with kids most at risk
- the homeless agency needs more volunteers to do street outreach to youth and make sure they know their rights
- the homeless shelter needs bus passes to return kids home who have been dumped in town by traveling sales crews
The list is endless. Every community has gaps in the work to end human trafficking. The important thing is to collaborate with others so as to not duplicate efforts. The only way to do that is to be learners, seeking to serve and join rather than assume and without proper knowledge, start your own thing and potentially do more harm than good.
For faith communities, I recommend reading the following:
- When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Stephen Corbett
- Refuse to do Nothing by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim
- Justice Awakening: How You and Your Church Can Help End Human Trafficking by Eddie Byun
- 8 Ways to Stop Human Trafficking in Your Own Backyard, Relevant, by Beth Bruno