As a leader in the church, I want to be above reproach. For me, this has and always will be a matter of integrity. However, amidst the needed #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, being above reproach is perhaps more important than ever before.
As youth workers, we work with one of the most vulnerable populations in the church: Teenagers. We want to model Jesus to them, care for them, and protect them. To do that, we have to take steps to ensure that our behavior is unquestionable. With that in mind, here are 9 guidelines I follow when doing ministry with young people. They’re also the guidelines I ask my other adult leaders – both male and females – to follow as well.
1. Meet with students in public, not private. Get to know students over a cup of coffee or scoop of ice cream, in a public place surrounded by other people, not in your office with the door closed. Remember, it is possible to have a private conversation in a public place. Doing so protects both you and your student who, let’s face it, will be much more comfortable meeting with you in public anyway.
2. If you host students in your home for various events and Bible studies, always ensure there are multiple students and adult leaders present. When you have students in your home, your spouse – even if they are also a ministry leader – does not count as a second adult leader. Instead, you need to have another adult leader present who is not in any way related to you. Ask adult leaders to stay until the last student has been picked up.
3. If you drive students home, do so only when a second adult is present in your car OR when there are multiple teenagers present.
4. Over communicate one-on-one meetings with parents. Developmentally, teenagers are beginning to have a great deal of autonomy. However, to be above reproach, before meeting with a student one-on-one, talk to their parents. Let them know what you’ll be talking about (You can do this generally, without a lot of details, in order to maintain confidentiality with a student,) where you’ll be meeting, and how long that meeting will last.
5. At the close of an event, ensure that you are never left alone with a student. Instead, ask another non-related adult to stay until the last student is picked up.
6. Don’t block windows. Often in youth ministry, we try to create a certain atmosphere in our youth rooms and offices. To do this, we’ll close window blinds or put paper over them. Don’t. Parents – or anyone else for that matter – should be able to look into your office and youth room and see what’s going on. This communicates that you have nothing to hide.