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Someone asked me about a situation concerning A PDA issue in their youth ministry and thought I’d expand on that with some other youth ministry policy issues you should think through.
Let me make a distinction, first
Rules are what we make to make to create order – No one in the sound booth if you’re not running it, etc.
Standards/Values are what we create to elevate the behavior of our group . They’re based on human morals or, in our case, biblical principles – respect everyone one, care for each other, etc.
Policies are like rules and standards but are more well thought out in case something comes up that a rule or standard does not cover – Our store has policy that you cannot return a n item without a receipt, etc.
Policies are also what people create to prevent financial loss or to keep work load down. If rules are made to be broken then policies are meant to be followed because the consequences could be higher.
When I was a young youth worker, I wasn’t a fan of policies. They seem to be made to suck the fun out of youth ministry. Now, that I am older and look back, I see how God had mercy on my soul.
I might have stuffed too many kids in a van, not have enough leaders for an event or trip and played games I wouldn’t play today just because of the risk factor. The times have changed so our policies much change with them, if we want to keep from being sued but more importantly, if we want to keep our students safe.
If your your church or youth ministry do not currently have a policy for these seven sticky situations, I highly recommend you put some in place, before a situation occurs.
I had to face this. I had a young man who would not leave a young lady alone and I had to remove him from the youth ministry. In the age of #metoo, but great greater still, out of respect for the young ladies and sisters in Christ you have in your youth ministry, we have to address each situation quickly, with love.
There was another case where a young lady did not like the way one of our adult leaders greeted her. My leader was a hugger and meant no harm, but for the sake of that young lady I address the whole team about appropriate touching with students.
Just because we are teaching biblical principles of how we should treat each other does not mean we shouldn’t have a policy in place should it happen. I’ve been in this long enough to know that, as youth workers, we often only see what happens on the surface and last to know when something goes wrong. Be prepared.
There are too many kids killing themselves because they can’t function at school due to bullying. Youth group is should be a safe place for kids, but kids are human beings and human beings are flawed. Just because kids come to church does not mean they like everyone.
It could be that a group of kids are ostracizing a student in your youth ministry from wanting to participate.
It could be that someone is getting bullied on line from students in your ministry.
There could also be spiritual bullying where a kid is not participating in worship a certain way or does not practice a spiritual discipline the way others do or nor at all and the other kids look down on them.
In all these cases, we have to be aware or our surrounding and keeping an eye in the outcasts and even the “popular” kids who are struggling with their peer group.
You may have an unwritten policy that says we do not allow bullying, but do your kids know? Do you have a way forward should you discover it is happening?
In comparison to the two issues I just mentioned, this is nothing, but we need policies for money issues to avoid in house turmoil as well as letting parents know how we deal with things like,
A kid paid for camp and now they cannot go, can they get their money back?
A kid misses the mission trip deadline for deposit, can they still go?
Stores have policies about returns and refunds because they do not want to lose money or time. Having policies concerning money is to keep as many headaches away from you as possible.
Sexual issues cover a multitude of things from students sleeping together to transgender issues. Many churches are struggling with how to do camp because several of their students identify as gay which makes an issue for sleeping arrangements, etc.
If the sign above your church says, “Everyone is welcome” but you treat certain people differently, it comes across as hypocritical and sets up your ministry for a confrontation.
How can your church and youth ministry create an environment where everyone is welcome? If there are certain conditions where a student could feel uncomfortable, what can you do? How would you address it?
If you do a lot of outreach, you’ll eventually get kids who do not fit the church mold. They won’t know how to behave and you a going to to have to take action.
In a recent coaching session I had with a young youth worker, he described where a young man who was actually opposed tot he gospel and was angry at God for the way the church behaved, yet, he showed up. This young man is conflicted and hurting but he was also creating some chaos that the youth pastor had to deal with. What is he to do?
This young man hasn’t had to deal with this before, but he has a strategy which will eventually turn into policy for dealing with students like this.
There are too many bad stories in the church of volunteers, who were not vetted, who eventually caused a problem. This is youth ministry staffing 101. Every adults who works with minors needs to go through a background check.
At the time of this post, a background check at your local sheriff’s dept. cost around $45. If you think that’s expensive, try getting sued for negligence.
There are other choices that do more comprehensive work such as
Texting and online contact with teens
I personally know of someone is labeled a sex offender for some discussions that were had online. His life is hell. Your personal standards as a youth worker should be such that you would not have conversations with students of the opposite sex, online or through texting, beyond informal conversation.
I’m not talking about exchanging information about a youth event concerning the time of event or wishing someone a happy birthday. My concern is about those conversations that take place late at night with students who are vulnerable and have possibly become co-dependent on your help.
Always refer student of the opposite sex to a leader of the that sex. This will keep you from falling into any traps our enemy, the devil, would have laid for you.
What to do
First thing, find out what your churches policies are about any of these subjects and refer to them when planning or making decisions.
Next, find out the policies of your denomination. Most churches fall in line with their denominational polices. If your church does not have any policies concerning some of these topics, let them know.
When I Googled Safety in Youth Ministry the fist link to pop up was from the Unitarian Universal church. Most Christian denominations disagree this sect on theological grounds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from some of their precautions concerning young people.
Here is an example of a denominations policies concerning youth ministry.
Her’s a great article from Orange on having a safe youth ministry
Lastly, here is a Christian Insurance company who works with churches and they have a plethora of resources.
Lastly, before planning that next game night or risky event, check on your churches insurance and see what they cover and what they do not cover.