When it comes to working with kids and students, safety must be a priority. This is why one of the principles that you must believe in if you want to work with youth is prioritize safety.
As Christian leaders, we have a responsibility to keep our kids and students safe in all contexts. This responsibility doesn’t just come from the parents we serve or the churches where we attend. This responsibility comes from Jesus himself.
Matthew 18:5-6 And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
God loves kids. I hope you do too. And I hope you take the safety of kids seriously, because I know that Jesus does. The Bible uses some of its harshest language to describe what happens to those who harm young people.
With this in mind, here are a few things you must know in order to prioritize safety:
Safety is everyone’s responsibility
All of us have a role to play in safety. It’s not just the job of the pastor, the church staff, or the youth group leader to promote safety. When it comes to safety, it is everyone’s job. This means that as a youth leader, you need to create a safe environment.
Teenagers will often want to do things that may put them in danger or compromise the safety of others. It’s your job as the leader to make sure that all activities and meetings are held in a manner that keeps students safe. Also, if you see another leader compromise safety, don’t be afraid to call them out on it.
Learn to be wise in every ministry situation. If you don’t have enough adult leaders to pull of an event, then cancel it. Don’t meet alone with students. Always meet in a public setting. If you need to have a private conversation with a student, make sure that you are visible to other leaders for accountability.
Safety is based on the policies and the procedures
Your church has policies and procedures in place in order to keep students and leaders safe. As a youth leader, it is your responsibility to know the safety policies of your church, and to implement them. Read and re-read your church’s safety policies. If you find it difficult to fulfill your church’s safety policy, talk to your youth group leader or pastor immediately. If you need to create a safety policy for your church, you can find sample safety policies here.
Safety frees you to serve with confidence
Safety policies are not put into place to make ministry difficult. They are put into place to protect students, youth leaders, and the church. This means that your church has a safety policy to protect you. If you follow the safety policy, you don’t have to worry about getting yourself in the wrong situation. Again, don’t be afraid to enforce the safety policy. It is up to each leader to hold the other leaders and students accountable to the safety policy. If a leader or student refuses to follow the safety policy, speak with your pastor or youth group leader immediately. Following the safety policy allows us to focus on mentoring and discipling students, which is our top priority.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- How important is safety where you work? What does your employer do to ensure safe standards?
- Read Matthew 18:5-6. How does protecting youth glorify God? What does a safe environment communicate to parents dropping off their kids at youth group?
- List some reasons that clear safety policies are important for a church.
- How may enforcing policies and setting boundaries with students be a struggle for you?
- Share some tips on how to set and enforce boundaries in a youth ministry setting.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.