Just imagine it was you …
You have just heard in casual conversation amongst youth workers in your congregation that the very fine college freshman young man who started working with your youth in the spring semester is now the unofficial “very fine prom date for senior girls.” He has three prom dates lined up already, one of which is past. How could this happen?!
And then you realize that it happened because you never told him that he shouldn’t, that operating as an adult amongst teenagers would be very different than simply being Mr. Wonderful Prom Date for teenage girls.
Many long-serving, well-trained volunteers know the rules of the road when it comes to serving with children and youth. But even the best equipped ministry volunteers need to be reminded, at least on an annual basis, what the expectations and ground rules are for serving in your ministry, not to mention Mr. Wonderful, who means well and will do a good job once he gets the lay of the land.Your ministry needs a full statement of youth ministry personnel guidelines for staff and volunteers. Click To Tweet
Start with a sound child protection policy.
Since their introduction circa 1990, child protection policies (like “Safe Sanctuaries”) have become standard practice for churches who want to express a full commitment to the protection of the young people in their care from abusive situations and relationships. Instituted by Tennessee teacher Frank O’Neal, the resulting guidelines for churches and other organizations have addressed issues that have long hampered the credibility and effectiveness of faith-based ministries and, even worse, grossly impacted the lives of innocent children and youth.
Click HERE to explore information about “Safe Sanctuaries.”
But there are a number of other areas with which church volunteers should be familiar.
VISION – Spiritual, Scriptural, and Philosophical UnderpinningsYour volunteers need to know why you do what you do. Click To Tweet
They need to know the scriptures that inform that vision and the mission statement that expresses it. They need to know how the ministry operates and the spirit by which it does so. They need to know the goals you are trying to accomplish and how you will know when you’ve arrived.
If you don’t have a Mission Statement, set of Core Values, and Three-year Goals for your ministry, now is a good time to get those visionary ideas on paper.
ACCOUNTABILITY – To Whom You Answer – So when a problem arises or an incident occurs, to whom are your volunteers expected to turn? They need to know the lines of accountability – who’s the “boss” and who can help when they’re stuck.
SAFE SANCTUARIES – Being Familiar and Signing Off – Volunteers should receive training in child protection policies, they should become familiar with those policies, and they should affirm in writing that they have that knowledge.
REQUIREMENTS OF LAW – Abuse, Self-harm – Consult your state law. – Most, if not all, states have laws requiring reporting to authorities when persons in authority, including your ministry volunteers, have knowledge about things such as child abuse or likely self-harm, even disclosed in confidence. You should consult the laws in your state about what those circumstances are, and communicate these to your volunteers.
SPIRITUAL MATURITY – Sharing Your Faith – If yours is like most churches, you will have volunteers at a variety of spiritual maturity levels. Some could replace the best of your staff. Others are hanging by their spiritual fingernails just trying to figure it out week to week, looking to you for guidance. So set your expectations high, and many will live to reach them.
MORAL INTEGRITY – Setting an Example – You will want your volunteers to set a high moral example from which your teenagers can learn. And may the Lord save you from the one who falls from grace on a regular basis.
SOME SPECIFIC AREAS OF CONCERN
What are your expectations when volunteers drive their vehicles?
Do you have certain expectations if volunteers accompany a group of your teenagers to movies?
Do you want to address anything about when youth ministry personnel date others in the same role?
What specifics might you share about fraternization with youth?
How would you address a volunteer or staff person who shares about their personal issues with young people? In public? In private?
Won’t you want to address the implications of the use of social media?
… and there’s always more …
If you don’t tell them, they might not know, even Mr. Wonderful Prom Date and the mothers who suggested him to their daughters for this year’s prom.
If you want to see a sample of youth personnel guidelines, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to spend some time talking with you about equipping your volunteers to be the best that they can be.