Discussing
Why Penn State is an overdue wake-up call for youth ministry

Jeff Munroe

Anny
November 11, 2011

When I've heard people talk about helicopter parenting with disdain, the issue is not that parents are protecting their kids, it's that they are overinvolved in places where they shouldn't be. It's things like a parent calling up a college professor to complain about their son or daughter receiving a bad grade. I think there's a difference between a parent taking reasonable precautions to protect their child's safety and intervening in every situation to the point where the child does not learn how to handle things for themselves.

Martisco
November 11, 2011

This is a fine editorial that should be widely read by religious youth group leaders everywhere in any denomination.  Thank you for writing it.

Mara
November 11, 2011

Jeff I think you have covered the topic thoroughly and thoughtfully. If I can  comment on the roll of Youth Ministry in the wake of the publicity from the Penn State Pedophile I would say this:<br><br>I think Youth Ministry has a responsibility to tackle the job of teaching our youth to be safe in a group of peers and older adults in preparation for being on their own at University or moving out. Excursions can be excellent opportunities for Youth leaders to provide opportunities for our children to practice safety skills like the buddy system, not being alone with an adult leader, or team member of the opposite sex, drinking from closed pop or juice containers etc, etc. Also they should include a good program about how to communicate your personal physical, sexual, moral boundaries to another person. <br><br>Not to make them paranoid but to let them practice real life skills. A solid program to raise our kids to be smart from the start would be a big bonus of the youth ministry. <br><br>I know that won't protect everyone but it is a start. The problem is, it sounds too much like sex education. :) <br><br>JMHO

Stephen Hale
November 11, 2011

I thought your point about 1 Cor. was an excellent one. I'm working as a youth director now, and this has given me a lot to think about.

Rickd
November 11, 2011

Good word. Are the morals of society getting worse? Why the push for more transparancy? Is this a “last days” phenomenon, when moral restraints become so lax? Why is it a "new day" that requires higher levels of "disclosure and transparency"? The example in 1st Corinthians occured between two consenting adults. The church in some cases has become so strange that we are acutally proud of homosexuals in unmarried same sex relationships filling our pews. We are tolerant of heterosexual unmarried affairs in the church. Paul would be laughed out of the church as a bigot. In fact, parts of the world regard the church as a toxic environment in regards to sex abuse. Ah well. Pardon my ranting. How about dem nittany Lions?

Anny
November 11, 2011

"Also they should include a good program about how to communicate your personal physical, sexual, moral boundaries to another person."<br><br>Yes. Not because a victim is to blame for the failure to communicate boundaries, but because this is an important skill to develop even in situations where everyone has good intentions.

Adrienne
November 12, 2011

Maybe parents are more reticent because of what they saw or experienced as youth. As a youth, I saw adults use authority to manipulate children in inappropriate ways. Reporting problems didn't solve or change the situations. The community/culture supported the adults (who possessed authority and ill-merited respect). Victims and whistle-blowers were viewed as problematic individuals because the community couldn't face the ugly truth.<br><br>While I plan on sending my kids to camp (and do believe that such independence offers a wonderful experience), we also teach them to question authority and that we want to know when something, anything, makes them feel uncomfortable they should tell us immediately so we can sort it out together. And while I don't need to be at camp/youth group/clubs with them, I will prefer programs where someone I know well is accessible.<br><br>We must teach our kids how to navigate a complicated world.

Anonymous
November 15, 2011

Ensuring that your children are protected from abuse is not "helicopter parenting." I am vigilant about ensuring that my young children are never in a position in which they are vulnerable to exploitation or abuse. I do not, however, blame their teachers when they perform poorly in school or try to fix their interpersonal conflicts with friends and siblings as "helicopter parents" would.  <br><br>The author is absolutely correct, though, that youth ministries should be completely transparent with mom and dad. I was raped by a youth minister as a child in a "camp" setting; away from home and without resources or rescue. I was violated a second time by church governance who wouldn't listen to me or my parents when I finally mustered the strength to report it. <br><br>Now that I am a parent, I have created a list of requirements that must be met before my children will participate in youth events (at church and otherwise):  (1) the children should never be alone with an adult 1-to-1 under any circumstance; (2) the adult to student ratio should be reasonable based on the ages of the kids; (3) at least one and preferably more of the adults involved must be women, because the truth is that abusers are almost always men; (4) parents should be openly invited to come along; (4) the children must have open access to reach parents at all times and, likewise, for parents to reach them; and (5) the leader must welcome parental questions and suggestions.  If s/he is defensive it is a good indicator that there are underlying problems.<br><br>I don't think of these requirments as unrealistic. One of my children who is in early elementary school had a male teacher last year. Instead of being nervous or suspicious, we just did our homework. We met him (and liked him tremendously) and checked out the classroom. The classroom had a glass divider with another classroom taught by a female teacher. The hallway door was always open. The regular classroom aide was a women. And, most important to us as parents, he had an open invitation to parents to show up at school any time unannounced to help out. He even had a "work station" for moms and dads with projects he needed completed, so they had something to do when they showed up in the classroom. Parents loved it, and we all had a terrific shool year. <br><br>We need to embrace transparency as good for everyone. It protects the kids, puts the parents at ease, and protects the youth leaders from accusations.

Anonymous
November 15, 2011

Because in the "old day" abuse and molestation went unreported.

Mara
November 15, 2011

Thank you for your candour and courage. I am glad you felt you could go to your parents and had their support. I am sorry to say that I am not surprised to hear of the abysmal response you received from your church.<br><br>I made the mistake of thinking that the title of Reverend would hold someone to a higher moral standard in rendering me assistance with a similar situation (not technically church related) but alas it would have been better if he had been a truck driver. He would have had less to lose and might have chosen to give me the assistance I asked for.<br><br>Very few churches could pass the test of Abraham.<br><br>

Laura's Last Ditch
November 17, 2011

I have a son with autism who wouldn't be able to communicate if something was wrong. Pretty scary.

Adrienne
November 18, 2011

Thought this article might be relevant to this discussion- especially as many of the abused scouts would be parenting ages now: <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-scouts-molest-story,0,3130016.htmlstory?track=icymi" rel="nofollow">http://www.latimes.com/news/lo...</a><br><br>The history of circling the wagons to protect the organization at the expense of victims has left many wary.

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