Youth Abuse Awareness Training Shockingly Low

By Guest Contributor April 11, 2014

By: Kyle Rohane

Christianity Today recently revealed the results of a study they conducted with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company of over 800 youth workers and leaders across the U.S. Many of the results are unsurprising. Senior pastors could stand to meet with youth pastors more often. Youth pastors are more likely to communicate regularly with members than other pastoral staff. But one troubling issue stands out from the rest. Abuse awareness and reporting levels are shockingly low.

Only one-third of youth workers say their church trains them on child abuse awareness and reporting. More than 30 percent of youth pastors say they receive no training in this area. In a country where three million children have been sexually abused, these numbers are unacceptable.

I know what flashes through the minds of youth workers when they hear the words “abuse awareness training.” I’ve been there. I worked for a children’s ministry in which I could never be in a room with children unless there was a female adult present. I served with a youth ministry and had to tolerate the restricting rules of whom I could or could not pick up in my vehicle. Over and over I asked myself, How do these churches expect me to minister to students when they keep binding my hands with regulations?

Frankly, it makes me angry. Why can’t we live in a world that allows us to minister uninhibited? We’re serving in Christ’s church. Shouldn’t that come with two heaping scoops of trust?

But the statistics snuff whatever frustration was building in my heart. One-third of girls and one-fifth of boys will be abused before they turn 18. That should horrify us.

Ministries have a mandate to protect people spiritually. But that can’t distract from the equally important mandate to protect people physically, emotionally, relationally. If we have to attend abuse awareness training or work with our hands tied to keep students a little safer while they’re in my care, there’s no question we should do it in a heartbeat.

Your ministry should be a haven for the hurting, a bunker for the broken. Take some time this week to study the child abuse standards in schools and other organizations near you. Do the rigors of your training match theirs? Do you hold yourself and your volunteers to the highest standard possible?

For those of us who work regularly with students, abuse training and reporting isn’t optional. One day we will stand before the King as he asks, “Did you do everything you could to protect the least of these?” How will you answer?

UPDATE: If your ministry is looking for resources to address these concerns, Christianity Today’s Church Law & Tax group has several options at various price points to get you started:

Reducing the Risk: Quick Start Kit

Essential Guide to Youth Ministry Safety

2013 Child Abuse Reporting Laws for Churches  

Preventing Sexual Misconduct in Youth Ministry

They’re also doing a series of roundtable interviews on their blog. The first two are “Social Media and Youth Ministry in the Post-Facebook Era” and “Does Your Youth Ministry Have a Communication Policy?” The third interview goes up on Thursday 4/17.

Finally, they’re releasing a book on safe youth ministry relational boundaries in two weeks called Drawing the Line. I’ll update this post with a link once it publishes.


About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More