Kevin East is the President of the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas. He formerly served Pine Cove Camps as their Executive Director of Ministries. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter @kevinteast.
Kids are getting hurt each and every day all across this globe. It sickens me that over the past few years, the people who were expected to be the role models – the church leaders, coaches, and youth workers – have fallen into that same category as perpetrator. It’s time for godly leaders to step up.
We’ve all seen the stories now of former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, and how he has been accused of all sorts of heinous acts against little kids.
It’s disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.
Last week, a friend of mine wrote this blog post. In it he described how incidents like the alleged ones at Penn State affect all organizations. He referred to it as a “black cloud” that hangs over every organization that works with youth. He said:
This black cloud is the mistrust of parents of all organizations that serve kids because of the tragic and broken trust by one unrelated person or organization.
He’s right on. In our culture, words like priest, pastor, youth worker and coach are conjuring up feelings of doubt and mistrust. And with each of these passing stories, I can understand why.
It is time for leaders to be men and women who are known and proven to be men and women of character.
If you are a follower of Jesus, it is essential that our lives and leadership be glorifying to God, and that our actions would reflect our inner convictions.
Here are some takeaway lessons for us as leaders:
1. Embrace the “Rule of Three.” – Don’t ever be alone with someone outside your family and close friends. If you have a meeting lined up with someone alone, make sure it is an open setting.
This includes but is not limited to: having lunch dates with someone of the opposite sex, bringing home a student in your car after a youth meeting, bringing home the baby-sitter, offering individual counsel in a closed setting, being alone with someone at your house – or theirs.
If you want people to trust you, this begins with showing you are trustworthy.
2. Be above reproach. – Leaders can’t “toe the line” of what is appropriate. There is too much at stake.
I remember 20 years ago when I worked at a church, a father of a boy in the youth group told me I looked like Satan since I had a goatee at the time. I was surprised to hear that Satan had a goatee.
But that wasn’t the point. The point was that I was responsible for the spiritual input into his son, so the father cared about my appearance. Lesson learned. I couldn’t even have the appearance of evil.
Leaders must live in such a way where their actions can’t be questioned.
3. Be relentless to protect those entrusted to you. – It’s not enough to do the least of what might be expected. Peoples’ lives hang in balance. Shepherds must be tireless in their effort to protect their sheep.
Years ago, I fielded many questions from parents about what all Pine Cove did to provide safe environments at summer camp. After quite a few phone calls, I decided to record this video entitled, “Preventing Sexual Abuse.” In it, I explained all the precautions we had in place.
We were just told by an independent training company, Praesidium, that our organization was the safest they’ve seen. As I told them, though, we’re not done. We will be relentless, continuing to learn how we can improve.
The devil would love nothing more than to see more children get hurt, and more leaders fall. It’s time for leaders to realize the magnitude of their responsibility, and act accordingly.