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Dr. Jody Dean is a professor, dad, and youth minister. He loves the local church and loves seeing when students have that “wow” moment and begin to come alive in their relationship with Christ. Jody Dean is also the co-author of Protect: A Youth Workers Guide to Navigating Risk, a book he wrote along with Dr. Allen Jackson. Jody recently sat down with YM360’s Jake Rasmussen at Southeast Conclave to talk a little about the book and the heart behind it.
Dr. Dean and Dr. Jackson have served on staffs together and Dr. Jackson was Jody’s professor. A few years back at Conclave, they shared lunch and began talking about risk management and protection within youth ministry. With incidents covering headlines for sexual misconduct and unreported issues in churches, Dr. Dean and Dr. Jackson had 16 different topics that kept rising to the surface in regards to risk management. Including things like Volunteers, Mandatory Reporting, and even things like Bullying and Making Money Matter.
Vetting your volunteers
When it comes to volunteers, where do you start? You might feel like you either have under-qualified people who have the right hearts but the wrong skill set to serve, or you only have helicopter parents who want to be involved only to ensure that their kids are safe, but not other kids. There are great volunteers out there, but how do you qualify them? First and foremost, character is everything. How do you assess their skill set and their background? You can create a “Volunteer Application” plus a background check? After that, you get to know them, you know their testimony and you get to know one another and pour into one another before they pour int your students.
Protection is Biblical
Protection isn’t just an idea, it's biblical. It’s important in youth ministry to safeguard and to protect. That's one of the things a shepherd does, a shepherd lays down his life over the gathering place of the sheep. No one gets close to the flock of sheep without the shepherd knowing. This should be the same for youth ministry. No teacher or outside force should get close to your ministry without you knowing about it. If a stranger came in and started teaching your students false information, you wouldn’t be happy. We want to help you safeguard your students.
Focus on the Details, rather than the Averages
Say on a Wednesday night, a tornado hits your building and the search and rescue show up and says “how many students were in your building tonight?” Did you have a sign in or a list of students who came that night or any night? Sometimes in youth ministry, we focus on the average, rather than the details. We tend to lose those details, but we live in a culture where we can’t afford to lose those details anymore.
These are some of the ideas that kept coming to the surface during the conversation between Dr. Dean and Dr. Jackson, and we hope that these have helped you to start thinking about your youth ministry’s safety.