One of the biggest questions that seems to follow a "Treasured Gifts from God" or other Child Protection Policy related session is in regards to "Well, then what CAN we do besides seal ourselves off from kids?"
While we adults working with youth MUST be cautious and sincere about providing safe environments for the kids, we can still be pastoral and caring....we just have to think! We also need to help teens understand 'appropriate touch' as well for use not only with adults, but their peers and when they assist with smaller children.
Here is a basic list that we use for guidelines for diocesan youth events:
+ behaviors are generally* considered appropriate at youth events and activities:
- behaviors are generally considered inappropriate at youth events and activities:
* These are generalizations as each individual varies in comfort in regards to 'personal space' and we must do our best to read the signs/behaviors s/he displays.
Remember, the point of our restrictions is to help provide safe environments for youth. But the point of our ministry is to help pass on the faith and help youth know, love and serve our Triune God. That means there are times and reasons were appropriate touch are necessary! God realized that people need to engage our human senses, and this he sent Jesus as a real person -- one who we've heard touched people:
Matthew 8:1-4/ Mark 1:40-42, Luke 5:12-13 --The leper
Matthew 9:20-22 -- The hemmoraging woman
Matthew 20:29-34 -- The blind man
Luke 22:50-51 -- The high priest's servant
Matthew 9:23-26 -- The young dead girl
just to name a few. So, touch can be healing, comforting, and loving.
In our ministry settings, it should never forceful, scary, or intimidating.
Be the gentle hand of God...appropriately!
Cindee Case, MPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.