Saddleback Church Hosts 'Justice Begins on the Playground' Seminar, Anti-Bullying Expert

Anti-bullying expert Paul Coughlin plans to teach the community leaders of values-based and faith-based organizations how to bring justice, mercy and compassion into the "theater of bullying" during a half-day seminar on Saturday.

Coughlin, founder of The Protectors, an organization aimed at equipping children, parents, and school officials against the rising trend of bullying, will be speaking at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. The seminar and training session will be webcast for free from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PDT.

Bullying is now the leading concern among parents and students – surpassing illicit sexual activity, drug use and gang activity, said Coughlin, citing a Harris Poll done in 2011.

Coughlin recently told The Christian Post that he personally knows the worthless feeling that often comes as the result of bullying because of his childhood experience of receiving abuse from within his own family.

"I was bullied by a parent and a sibling so I know what it does to a person. I know what it's like to not want to wake up the next day and you are just so miserable and you've been so humiliated, so torn up, you think you are worthless," he said.

Saddleback's men's ministry pastor, Kenny Luck, said that Coughlin is one of the nation's leading developers and trainers in anti-bullying.

"He is both a researcher and practitioner not just a mouth," Luck told CP. "His life message centers around training men, women, and children to have moral courage."

The seminar, titled "Justice Begins on the Playground," will also include discussion on the topic from other speakers giving testimony, including Luck.

"Paul and myself simply want a strong dose of truth and reality to penetrate the hearts of those who attend or watch online – move them emotionally or spiritually, and then equip them to do something about it," Luck said. "The equipping part is Paul's sweet spot as he has developed curriculum and training for schools, coaches, and educators that is first class."

Coughlin said his "innovative, peace-making and practical program will help you diminish the cruelty of adolescent bullying, and in the process grow courage, character and leadership for life."

Bullying is often misunderstood and is a growing form of abuse that is not the result of conflict or related issues, states Coughlin on his website. "It's the use of superior power to intentionally harm another over a period of time, and the result is heartbreaking.

"Bullying continues to play a complex role in the suicide of numerous children, and one study of 43,000 students revealed that bullying may be worse in private Christian schools among high school-aged boys."

This leadership training is based on The Protectors' "4-Part Program," which is currently used by numerous secular and faith-based organizations across the world, including Uganda, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other countries, Coughlin writes.

Coughlin would like to see more involvement coming from the Church.

"The Church is suspiciously missing and we're looking forward to changing that. We need to get in this battle. This is a battle for human dignity. We should have been in this battle a long time ago and so this is a call to action. It's really a mission field for people of faith across the world," he said.

Coughlin's organization aims to transform would-be passive bystanders who witness bullying into what he calls "alongside standers." The focus is on the "potential strength, heroic desire, and rescuing capacity of bystanders."

The webcast will be available for viewing here.