Carl wouldn’t be in prison today…
…if he had followed these 3 simple rules.
Rita would still be married, if she had stuck to them and a ministry couple I know, wouldn’t have had to move out of town, if they had put these in place right from the start.
If you, or someone you care about, could live by these 3 simple rules you could all avoid being another sad statistic. #3 May be the most important of all…
1. Have and Follow Policies
I took way too many risks this way when I started in ministry. Any one of these situations could have blown up in my face. I could have been fired or worse for not having or following policies for being alone with a student. In each case it was to help a student who was in trouble but going there by myself put me at risk of allegations of misconduct.
Most churches have strict guidelines for interaction with minors. These apply to the same sex or the opposite sex. If you don’t have a set of policies in place, here is a very detailed package that you can adopt, implement, and require of all of your leaders. By the way, that includes you. Plan to Protect
I always tell my students, “If you go against or step outside of these policies, you are on your own. No one will be able to stand up for you.”
2. Be Accountable
Do you have a supervisor? Do they know what you are doing? Most people don’t enjoy having someone looking over their shoulder but if the leadership or your church or agency doesn’t know what you are doing, you could be in trouble very quickly.
If you work in an office and you step out to go to a high school, meet with a student, or even just running errands, let them know where you are going, who you are meeting and when you will be back. Also let them know how to reach you during that time. Parents must also know if you are meeting their son or daughter and their friends.
A regular routine of doing this covers you and keeps you accountable for your time and your whereabouts. It helps avoid misunderstandings about your activities.
There are some special circumstances that your supervisor needs to be aware of. Here are a few but nowhere near all of them:
- When you are working with a family in your church facing difficulties
- When a student is struggling with suicidal thoughts, addictions, or serious counselling issues.
- When students are in danger of harming themselves or someone else’s
- When a family or a student is involved with the law.
- When a student has run away from home.
- When there are concerns of physical or sexual abuse
3. Talk to the Right Somebody
Carl was working too many hours and spending a lot of it with a student leader. His marriage had turned cold and he confided in the student. A sexual relationship with a minor was the result. Does that send a chill through you? It does for me!
It is essential that each of us has someone with whom we can share our deepest feelings. Normally this is our spouse. It may be our supervisor but it may be difficult to be completely transparent. In some cases this may be a mentor, trusted friend or a paid professional.
Most of all you need someone you trust completely who will keep whatever you share in absolute confidence. They are sometimes hard to find but it may be that your church, denomination, or agency has trusted, trained, professionals who can help.
This is so important because all danger begins in the thought life. Once a trusted confidante hears you out, you are not alone in these thoughts. Their hold on you weakens and you can begin to deal with root causes.
Verbalizing it also helps you be aware of what is going on in your heart. If there are issues with anger, pride, lust, or greed they can be identified for what they are and dealt with. Here your friend, spouse, or counselor can also keep you accountable in a much deeper way than your supervisor. The worst thing is to be completely alone in your struggles.
Protect Your Life and Your Ministry
If no one knows what’s going on in your heart and mind please find the right person to talk to.
If you don’t have policies in place for you and your leaders, get on this now. Or if things have been lax in this area, tighten things up for your sake and for your students.
Finally, if your supervisor or office is unclear about your schedule, change your routine. Get organized and communicate with others about where you are and what you are doing.
It is when we drop our guard and stop following these three simple rules we are in grave danger.