The news from the Penn State scandal has dominated the news cycle for the last week, and it has dominated my thoughts as well. I couldn't believe the heinous crime that was perpetrated on young at-risk boys in such a public place for so long.
There are many lessons to learn from this tragedy and it's aftermath. We spent a good deal of time in our staff meeting today discussing this. Here are some of the BIG lessons I believe we in Kids Ministry MUST learn from this:
1) We must be VIGILANT in protecting His children.
Every child must be vigilantly protected. We must have policies, processes, and procedures in place that put safety for God's children at the HIGHEST priority. Some of the policies we have in place at HVKM are:
* Six month rule - an adult must have attended our church for a minimum of six months before being allowed to work with minors. NO exceptions!
* ALL adults must go through a criminal background check process
* No adult is EVER alone with a minor - not in a car, not in a classroom, not in a hallway, NEVER. This not only prevents the opportunity for abuse, but also protects the volunteer from false accusation.
2) When you see abuse taking place - INTERVENE!
It is not enough to just "pass the info up the chain." A child is in the act of being harmed, intervene! Scream, yell, throw something, call the police, draw attention to the area like a crazy person. Do whatever it takes to cause the abuse to stop. Then, report it immediately!
3) Never allow the failure underneath you to remain.
Coach Paterno wasn't the one who perpetrated the acts, but he was the one who allowed the person who did to stay on his team. Then, he tried to just ignore the problem and hope it went away. When a leader allows a member of his/her team to continue in moral failure (of whatever nature) unchecked, then that leader is equally to blame. It seems easier to just ignore the problem - it never is in the long run.
4) The truth will always come to light.
The Bible puts it this way, "Be sure your sin will find you out." - Numbers 32:23
We need to talk with our volunteers about this issue. Remind them of the importance of protecting all of God's children. They are innocent, fragile, and precious! They are the gifts God has given us the opportunity to serve. We CANNOT fail them by not protecting them. We must be VIGILANT!
Let us also pray sincerely for the victims and their families. Recovery from abuse can be a life-long journey. God, in His infinite power, can help bring peace and healing to hearts and lives that have been broken by the abuses of others.
For more great info on this subject, see my friend Roger Fields' post!