It happened again last week. Another person serving in children’s ministry is accused of inappropriate contact with a child. When reports like this come out in the news, all those serving in children’s ministry are saddened for the children, the families and the person accused, In these instances you are always guilty in the court of public opinion until proven innocent, and even then there is a cloud of doubt that follows the individual if the allegations are unfounded.
The latest incident wasn’t a small town ministry leader, or someone across the country that “nobody” knows, but a high profile leader in children’s ministry who has become well known in the kidmin world, training many in ways to reach children. So how does the kidmin community handle this incident? There were several things that were done shortly after the news broke:
- Several posted the news article about the individual’s arrest, which included their picture, commenting about the importance of background checks, the “two-adult rule”, and accountability
- One publisher noted the accused individual and initially used their Facebook post to promote their background check system (the post was fairly quickly edited to remove the “solicitation”)
- Many are commenting about not rushing to judgement and praying that the allegations are false and the individual is innocent.
It seems to me that there is a greater cry to wait for everything to work through the system than normal when an individual has been accused and arrested. People may be waiting for the accused individual, or a close associate, to share their side of the story. Sadly I have seen no such statements by those close to the accused (they may have been made, and I am simply not aware of them).
There have been several news accounts of church leaders having inappropriate contact wth children and youth, so why is the report of this accusation bringing such a disturbance in the kidmin world?
Here are my thoughts:
- It is one of “our own”. Someone many knew, trusted, and respected.
- Those who knew him would have provided a stellar recommendation and would have even welcomed the individual on to their team.
- It makes us wonder if we can really trust anybody
- It hits home because it is a high profile leader and reminds each of us that an accusation is all it takes to ruin our ministry, and possibly impact others who we are connected. The ripple effect is great.
- We don’t want to believe that someone we know could do such a thing.
Background checks are important, but they only tell us if an individual has been caught and convicted. Children’s ministry leaders must always be vigilant, watching for things that seem out of the ordinary. We need to be watching a person’s character traits and behaviors that may show signs of inappropriate behavior with children and grooming of a child. I know that in my many years of ministry that I have had to be very careful in things I did to reach children to avoid the appearance of evil and impropriety. Sometimes to extremes to avoid false accusations.
We have seen a “wolf in sheep’s clothes” before, and sadly we will see it again. Are you truly shepherding the lambs (children/youth) in your care, or are you a “hired hand”. (John 10:7-14)
I have not mentioned the individual accused, linked to the news report, etc because as with anyone who has been accused, I hope the allegations are false and for those who are connected to the greater world of kidmin, you already know of the individual and accusation made by some youth.
The final questions raised through this incident are:
How will we in the greater kidmin community react to this incident? If the allegations are deemed unfounded then I would anticipate the cry to be one of forgiveness. But what if the allegations are found to be true. How will the “kidmin community” respond? What will their Facebook feeds, their tweets, the blogs, etc say? Will those closely associated with the individual begin to distance themselves from the accused? No matter what, there must be an outcry for accountability by everyone who serves in children’s & youth ministry and not just for others, look in the mirror, there needs to be accountability for you, and for me.
Yes we are all sinners saved by grace and we must always keep that in mind. I did not know the individual personally but I have seen them at national children’s ministry events, “attended” their webinars, downloaded their resources, etc. This accusation has shaken the kidmin world like nothing I have seen in recent history.
As more information is brought forth, may we remember to pray for the many impacted by this, and may we each look inwardly to see how we can better safeguard the children/youth in our care, creating greater accountability for ourselves and those who serve with us.