In light of the ongoing controversy in Portland about CEF and the Good News Clubs originally covered here on OPB’s Think Out Loud, I offer a few more ideas on engaging with children and youth in ministry. For the previous post see: Child Evangelism – Toward a Participatory Approach.
Several years ago while visiting a home that was established to protect children I came across a depressing scene. The home had been established by a well-known mission agency concerned with abandoned children the world over. Over time the home and local response team had deteriorated, the original substitute house parents had left and out of a need to provide adult leadership, those in charge began to place short-term missionaries who were unprepared to care for these children. The methodology that was chosen by many of those in responding to the needs of the children was forced prayer and fasting. The results were devastating!
As I have previously noted, children should be encouraged to voice their ideas – even participate in the design of outreach programs, but if we fail to protect children and youth under our care, we will fail the very youth we seek to care for. Recent documentation on holistic child development among Christian child-care workers can prove to be helpful as we look a this issue.
As Heather MacLeod mentions, it is common for some to be attracted to working with children at risk for selfish and even harmful reasons. MacLeod underscores this by pointing out that “increased media attention in the last decade has highlighted this fact, identifying cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children by staff and volunteers. Christian organizations and church groups have been included in this attention” (2003, 245). The author goes onto suggest the development of child protection policies as an essential tool to caring for children within Christian outreach. She says, “child protection policies are aimed at reducing the risk of anyone who is associated with the organization abusing children” (2003, 247).
For specific information on child protection policies see Celebrating Children, pages 245-255. In addition to this, Viva International provides capacity-building tools such as a Child Protection Principles. See Viva International for more. Another great resource is provided by Child Hope in partnership with UNICEF. See CP Manual.
Let’s do more to rise above naive assumptions about how to protect children and move toward outreach models that are clearly based on best practices in the field of holistic child care.
- MacLeod, Heather. 2003. Child Protection. In Celebrating Children: Equipping People Working with Children and Young People Living in Difficult Circumstances Around the World, edited by G. a. J.-J. W. Miles. Carlisle, UK: Partnernoster Press.