We’ve all been there. Whether it’s the kid who needs a ride home after youth group or the kid who can’t get a ride to come meet you at Starbucks, the scenario is the same. You and a teenager alone in a car. Should you be concerned or is it no big deal? I say it’s a little bit of both. On the one hand, yes, you should be concerned because any accusation of misconduct could send your reputation, your ministry, and your church reeling with litigation. On the other had, no, because giving kids rides is just a normal part of life-on-life, relational youth ministry. We can’t stop doing the very things that set us up for good conversations just because we’re afraid of someone’s accusation. But neither can we set ourselves up for an accusation that could ruin us.
Well, for what it’s worth, here’s how we’re handling these kinds of situations. Whether the driver is me, one of my staff, or one of our volunteer small group leaders, the protocol is the same.
1. Watch for potentially isolating situations.
Pay attention to the flow of students and adults. Try to make sure there’s at least one other adult in the building until all the kids have left. If it looks like you may be alone with a student, ask another adult to stay with you.
2. Try to find some other arrangement if possible.
It’s best to work a little harder to contact a parent or guardian. If you just cant get a hold of them, try next of kin. If that doesn’t work or isn’t feasible then ask move on to the next step.
3. Notify another staff person of what you’re doing and where you’re going.
If you must give a student a ride regardless of gender but especially if it’s a student of the opposite gender or one with a known same gender attraction, leave a message for the parent (secure permission if arranging a meeting) and notify another staff person. If it’s just you and a senior pastor working at the church, make arrangements with him or her to call at any time if needed. Texting works great for this situation. Let them know where you are, where you’re going, and who you’re taking.
If you’re giving them a ride home from church…
- Notify them when you leave, who you’re with, and where you’re going.
- Notify them when you arrive there. For record’s sake take a selfie revealing your location if possible (this is especially helpful if your camera has geo-tagging and time-stamping enabled).
If you’re picking them up from somewhere to take them to a public place to meet such as a coffee shop…
- Notify them when you pick them up and where you’re going.
- Notify them when you arrive at that location. Again, take a selfie revealing your location.
- Notify them when you leave that location. Another selfie.
- Notify them when you’ve dropped them off at home again.
4. Extended conversation in the car after arrival should be avoided.
Unfortunately, my friends, the days of sitting in the car for another hour in the driveway in deep conversation with any kid in our ministry are … over. You should never isolate yourself anywhere with a student regardless of gender. The conversation can and must wait for another, more public setting.