Friday, March 03, 2006

Guilty until proven innocent

Hugo Schwyzer posts about being a youth minister in a climate of suspicion, more specifically a climate where people are concerned that you are molesting their kids. His response? He doesn't really blame them, since it is a well-known phenomenon, so he does his best to make it clear that he's doing his job responsibly and well.
Sometimes, one of the youth group kids will ask to meet with me privately to talk. I traditionally meet with 'em on Wednesday afternoons before youth group. No matter whether I'm meeting with a boy or a girl, I let someone on the church staff know. "Hey, so-and-so is coming by to talk to me. We'll be out front on the bench" (or in the glass-doored junior high room, or wherever). I check in with another adult right before and right after I meet with the teen, and I always meet somewhere we can both talk without being overheard yet still be seen by others. Everyone is kept safe, I'm staying accountable, and my kids are able to meet with me intimately and privately. Yes, setting this up involves some conscious thought -- but it's not that big a deal once you get used to it.
He contrasts this with the approach of another man in a similar position, who simply avoids dealing with any young women or girls in his work, which Schwyzer thinks is the wrong way to deal with the bad reputation that youth leaders have earned for themselves. I haven't sorted out my thoughts on all of this - what do you do when you're part of a group in which a notable number of members do something very bad? What is your responsibilty to communicate to others and what is their responsibility to understand you? I don't know, but they're good questions to think about, in a world where we want to quash unfair prejudice but still remain safe.

While you're at it, check out Schwyzer's musings on standing up for feminist principles in all-male environments.

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