1. Working with youth requires training.
  2. safetyAffection is not always wanted
  3. Maintain a Learner’s Mindset
  4. Covenant Together

As we look toward 2019, the PSWR Youth and Young Adult Ministries want to make sure every parent, every pastor, and every one who engages in regional ministries can do so without fear of unsafe or dangerous conditions. We are committed to provide sanctuary for those who seek God’s love and covenant with one another.

We can relate to the vulnerability of walking into uncertainty (especially those of us raising kids). The stress of not knowing what the next step in our lives will bring is enough to keep some of us up at night. The good news is, you are not alone on this journey and there are ways to ensure everyone is safe while in our faith communities.

Here are a few tips that we are using to make sure Inter-generational Ministry is safe for everyone!

Tip #1 – Working with youth requires training.

It’s true. Somewhere along the line many communities have gotten comfortable with simply having an adult present. Sure, they’ve probably at least had a background check of some kind, but there is much more to safety than the presence of an adult (even those who have been around for a long time). Healthy leadership is intentionally developed through training.

There are no fewer than six types of abuse – Verbal, Psychological, Physical, Sexual, Spiritual, and Ritual – many of which can occur unintentionally by those who have never received proper training. In 2019, the PSWR will be asking all of those serving in the  Youth and Young Adult ministries as adult leaders to go through basic boundary training. This will include all Loch Leven camp volunteers, Youth Leadership Team (YLT), Youth Immersion Ministry (YIM), and Young Adult Leadership (YALL).

Please encourage those serving youth and young adults in your community to attend training (for a helpful resource provided by expert Joy Thornburg Melton, visit:  https://www.cokesbury.com/product/9780881774153/safe-sanctuaries-for-children-and-youth-dvd/).

Tip #2 – Affection is not always wanted

We might think this is a no-brainer, but expectations around affection can be very tricky. For those of us who grew up in a southern culture, hugging may have been a polite greeting for all family friends and distant relatives. However, we can never assume this is the case when serving the church. For many years, shoulder rubs were a part of camp culture as a way to help folks relax. Today, we have a clearer sense of what is appropriate for camp and all ministries with young people.

Loch Leven, Youth Immersion Ministry, Youth Leadership Team, and Young Adult Leadership are committed to maintain appropriate boundaries and protect those who are entrusted to our care.

For resources on appropriate behavior and signs of abuse, please visit: SafeConduct Workbench

Tip #3 – Maintain a Learner’s Mindset

Institutionalization is a real thing. Traditions, rituals, and organizational structures that have been practiced for decades can become so ingrained in people that it impacts the way we act outside of the institution. In some ways, this can be a beautiful thing (showing compassion, fighting for justice, working toward peace, etc.). In other ways, institutionalized thought stunts growth, excludes people, and limits identity/faith expression.

Living in healthy community requires that we maintain a learner’s mindset to continue demonstrating our care for each other. We must always be willing to make healthy changes and sharpen skills in order to maintain current best practices.

Institutionalized thinking can establish a fall-out line – anything beyond the parameters of the institutional practice can be understood as a threat to the institution. We see this clearly in much of the tensions between nations, politics, and organized religions. Further still, the parameters of the institution can serve to protect predators and abusers – as long as they abide by the rules of the institution. New standards and proper accountability is essential.

For resources on ministry standards and safety templates, please visit:  https://www.insuranceboard.org/safety-resources/safeconduct-workbench/

Tip #4 – Covenant Together

As faith communities committed to providing safety for all members, we communicate expectations and commit to a covenant in ministry together. The Insurance Board (Partners in Protection) of the United Church of Christ offers a bounty of resources and guidelines to help communities keep children safe. Click here for the “We Won’t Let It Happen Here” manual, which includes a sample covenant agreement you can use in your church.

For years the PSWR has promoted covenant agreements with camp volunteers according to the Insurance Board’s guidelines. This year all PSWR Youth and Young Adult leaders will be asked to enter a covenant that outlines expectations for leadership preparation, behavior, and policies when caring for young people (and serving with one another).

Entering a covenant agreement not only protects our young members, but also empowers our volunteers with the knowledge they need to serve well.

What tips and resources can you share to help make regional youth ministries and local congregations safer for inter-generational work? Share in the comments below. 

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