Reaching in, Reaching out

Reaching in, Reaching out

In 2007, Melodie Bissell (MDiv ’10) incorporated the business Winning Kids, with the goal of “winning the race against abuse” and setting a standard of protection for children. The business, which uses Biblical truths to inform her training materials, was her way to serve the community by fighting abuse.

In 2007, Melodie Bissell (MDiv ’10) incorporated the business Winning Kids, with the goal of “winning the race against abuse” and setting a standard of protection for children. The business, which uses Biblical truths to inform her training materials, was her way to serve the community by fighting abuse. Melodie’s idea was born while taking an In-Ministry MDiv at Tyndale, where she was asked to complete a project that would engage the church and the community. At the time, she had been editing a manual for the Christian and Missionary Alliance entitled Plan to Protect, which helped churches to prevent and address child abuse. Melodie’s epiphany came in the form of a question. While integrating Plan to Protect with her project she asked herself, “What do children hear when we share the gospel with them?...If they are victims of abuse and they are living this nightmare, what do they hear when we tell them that Jesus is always with them?…How does that translate to a child that’s been victimized?”

“We are just learning how to better connect with our community. Over the past five years we have been building relationships. We must learn to better incorporate evangelism into our community involvement. The danger is to care for the physical needs in our community and connect with our community without delivering the message of the gospel.”

—Anonymous (from a church)

Out of this project and a strong feeling of calling, Melodie began Winning Kids to better share Plan to Protect. The manual provides policies and training regarding awareness of abuse, abuse prevention, and ministering with integrity through onsite and online training.

At a church Melodie attended, many members completed the training and it became part of the church’s planning and preaching. As a result, the community began to see the congregation as trustworthy, screened, and safe, which led to a partnership between the church and the local public school. The school asked the church to provide fifty volunteers for a community carnival. At the carnival, the church was given the opportunity to promote their Sunday school and vacation Bible school. The school and church continued the partnership through other events because of the relationship of trust that had been established. While insurance companies routinely require the training for youth leaders, churches have experienced it as something much more.

Winning Kids provides three pocket guides for both churches and secular organizations and works with nearly 6,000 organizations. Winning Kids provides resources and training for day care centres, schools, sports leagues, municipalities, recreation centres, and nearly 25 percent of Canadian churches from several denominations.

Melodie has met resistance from some church leaders who were concerned that implementing the policies would make certain youth-focused ministries impossible. After working through the issues, Melodie helped leaders find creative solutions that kept the ministries going through the use of local cafés and businesses.

“We have to move outside the church building to the people, we can't always expect non-church people to come to ministries offered in the confines of the church. Many congregational members are timid and feel insecure about “going out” and interacting with people.”

—Anonymous (from an individual)

Melodie continues to discern how to balance sharing the gospel message while working for social justice when connecting with the community. “I live within this tension…It doesn’t have to be either-or…Jesus, He did both. He ministered within the community and He did those deeds but He also had a ministry of proclamation.”

Melodie recalls hearing from police officers and children’s aid workers that some children are “irreparably damaged.” She is adamant, “No way! I know a God who heals.” Winning Kids strives to create safe spaces where children can be nurtured, protected, and can receive the healing and love that the gospel offers. “It’s time for us to…speak on behalf of the victims of abuse…and not hide it and put it under the carpet. Then, as we do that, also to speak on behalf of our Heavenly Father to say that He is not silent… [He] is able and desiring to heal these wounds.”