Most people like to think there are certain “safe” places they can leave their kids and not worry about their children’s safety and well-being. One would like to think that the vast majority of the time they are right. But, unfortunately, other times they are proved wrong. It is heart-wrenching to hear stories on the news of children who have been abused (whether physically, sexually, or emotionally) by a trusted adult, like a teacher. It is even worse when that person turns to be a minister. I got asked to print something off for someone tonight. It was an article about a man who is charged with sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl. That in and of itself is sickening enough. Turns out that the man is “informally involved with youth ministries of various churches in Blount County”.
Anytime I hear of misconduct happening in a church I first feel so much pain for the victim. Then I get mad. I get really mad. If people in churches would take youth and children’s ministries seriously, most-if not all- of these cases could be prevented. Here’s the way most churches I know of do youth and children ministry: The preacher says from the pulpit that there are openings in certain classes. He then asks for volunteers to teach. As soon as a person volunteers for a class, they are accepted on the spot. Because, you know, no one else wants to waste their time on the younger people. Maybe they feel they have served long enough and they are just going to sit on a pew and do nothing until they die. So that only leaves a few people to do all the work. Which can, especially in a small church, leave only one person per class. That one person is in total control. I feel that is a disaster waiting to happen.
Abuse is not the only problem that results from having too few in the church willing to work with the younger crowd. Lack of solid teaching is widespread in our churches. Teachers do not spend enough time praying for their classes. They do not study and prepare to fill young minds and hearts with knowledge. Often, a person can read a really cool book on “how to do ministry for dummies in five minutes or less per week” and think that book and its five point plan of action for ministry are the way to go. If they just follow the teachings of this guy who says he has all the answers (and he has a church with eight gazillion members who all say he has all the answers) they can be great leaders, too. After all, this guy has a PhD and eight gazillion church members; they can’t go wrong following what he says.
So, our youth “ministries” turn into sports/drama/music with a Bible verse here and there. Our children’s “ministries” become puppet shows or sing-along. Am I saying that these things are bad and if you use them you are bad? NO! I am simply saying that if we focus on the entertainment, rather than the Bible, our children become shallow and faithless. 70% of them will stop attending church by age 30. The ones who do stay are often spiritually stupid. Did you know that in Puritan times it was considered lazy parenting if your child did not know the catechism by age five? These days kids are unusual if they know anything beyond “God made me” and “God loves me” by age five.
Let me be clear: not all people in youth and children ministries are shallow, have weak theology or are perverts. My husband is a youth minister. I work with with both the youth and the children in our church. We both take our responsibilities very seriously. We love the kids in our classes. We hurt when they hurt. We rejoice when something good happens for them. We care about them. However, I would be very confident to say that not one adult in our church could tell you anything about what we are teaching. We could be teaching some New Age philosophy and people would not know it. The attitude with most people is this: You take them so I don’t have to. They have come to see children and youth ministry as a form of glorified babysitting. You watch them so I can go to my class. People, if that is your attitude, you are responsible if someone in your church harms a child. Yes, I said YOU. It is the duty of mature Christians to teach the younger Christians. Even if you are not a “teacher”, have you ever thought about sitting in on a class as a helper? Have you volunteered to help out and observe what is being taught in your child’s class? Have you thought about that you are attending church to learn? What are you supposed to do with all that learning? TEACH!
Matthew 28:19-20; 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (emphasis mine there)
Unfortunately, too many Christians are like the ones in Hebrews
Hebrews 5:12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,
As a parent, I am very concerned with what goes on with my kids. Our family homeschools. No chance of them being harmed by their teacher. (unless of course, you count getting stepped on from getting behind mom when she does not know it 🙂 ) Mark and I teach at our church. We know what is going on in the classroom. Parents – I urge you to get involved. It could be that your children’s well-being depends on it.