Youth Ministry Risk Management

Risk Management that could have helped Penn State and Syracuse University sports teams.

The awful discovery these past few weeks from prominent Universities and iconic head coaches like Joe Paterno and Jim Boeheim that their immediate staff was potentially abusing children was quite sad. Unfortunately these circumstances are not isolated and could happen to any of us. Hopefully none of us have a friend or associate that is open to this type of offense but do you realize how much you and I have in common with these institutions?

These well known, long standing leaders in their field did not commit the physical crimes against children.  However, they are responsible and liable for their own actions when there is even a hint that someone is abusing a child.  These terrible events are a reality check for all of us that are involved with youth in a sports, church or ministry setting, that no one is invincible.

Most of my church and ministry clients are involved with teams/leagues/youth programs in one-way or the other. Are you a coach, athletic director, team mom or a church elder or pastor on the side-lines?  Whatever your position, today is the day to step back and realize exactly where you fit into the lives of the kids participating in your youth programs.  You are there to protect them at all costs.

There is a major article from Sports Illustrated years ago quoting actual predators in youth programs saying “This is how we got away with it …this is how you protect your kids.” (Example from the article, did you know, Studies have found that the average preferential molester victimizes about 120 children before he is caught?

Several useful Risk Management guidelines that can be implemented today in your organization include;

  • have all of your staff attend a safe kids training course or reference our children’s worker application form
  • never have a child (other then your own) in the room or car alone with you
  • while transporting kids, always have another parent or adult in the car
  • ask for references when interviewing potential new children Sunday School staff
  • ask open ended questions if kids are exhibiting strange, different or fearful behavior in your class

There is no more difficult situation to navigate in a church or ministry setting then knowing the correct thing to do when it comes to children that may have been victimized. A failed reporting to the appropriate authorities opens up your organization to great financial risk. Filing a report against a potentially innocent staff member can be devastating and career ending. But as a staff or volunteer leader you are there to protect the children.

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