While most of our contact with young people is through youth groups and the work on Sunday mornings there will be times where for a variety of reasons it is necessary for a youth leader to meet with either just one young person or a couple of young people.
At St Mary’s Magdalen Sheet we want all our youth work to do be done in a professional and safe way, these guidelines below will help ensure the safety of the young person and the youth leader while making sure the work is effective and God-giving.
Why we do it
We might work with young people one to one for a whole variety of reasons but our focus and aim must always be one of discipleship.
Discipleship takes place in safe, trusting God-giving relationships where we can examine life situations and how the young person handles them. With the aim of helping young people develop into spiritually fit, Christ centred people with their identity firmly rooted in God. We are not expected to be omni-competent, but simply to be open to the Spirit and willing to engage in the of growth of the young person in ways that will serve them and see them come to maturity.
Why we don’t do it
It is important for the young person to know from beginning the reason for meeting up and what the purpose of the one to one contact is. We must also explain to them that we are NOT:
- A Parent. We need to be aware of this because many young people are looking for a parent figure, particularly if this is an area they feel (consciously or subconsciously) is lacking in their lives in some way.
- A Counsellor. As you get to know each other better, it is likely your young person will open up with you about some of the difficult areas of their life. Be ready if you need to, to point them in the direction of someone more qualified to help them deal with specific issues and to talk to the youth leader about any specific concerns. Explain even if this does happen you are still supporting and praying for them.
- A Teacher. Obviously, the hope is that learning will take place in these meetings, but a teacher teaches and explains; where the youth leader shows the student and leads by example.
- A Buddy. Relationship is a key part of disciplining young people but it’s important to be absolutely clear that this isn’t a peer friendship. Being an adult friend to a young person is very different from behaving like one of their own buddies.
Who can do it
- The person must be a current leader and regular leader at St Mary’s Magdalen Sheet
- They must have a current and up to date DBS check
- They must check with the Youth Worker (or in his absence the Vicar) before arranging the meeting with the young person
When and Where
- The meetings must always be face to face not over some other form of communication – see our communication policy for more information.
- The meeting needs to be able to be seen but not overheard. The best above-board way to do this is in a public coffee house or equivalent. Failing that off to one side but visible at a youth event (i.e. SMART.)
- Any other arrangements must be made on a one to one basis with the Youth Worker, and the young person’s parents.
- One to one trips/outings are not acceptable as part of the mentoring relationship and are not endorsed by the church child protection policy. The leader cannot give the young person a lift to the meeting location. For more information see our travel policy.
- Any mentoring meetings should take place during out of school hours and at weekends between the hours of 8am and 8pm.
- For Child Protection purposes, the leader must let the Youth Worker (or if not available the Vicar) know the details of when, where and what time they are planning to meet with their mentee on each separate occasion.
- The leader should let the Youth Worker know immediately if these plans change.
- Parents should be made aware of when mentors are meeting with their child and should be able to contact them if necessary.
Child and Leader Protection
When meeting a young person it is important to use our common sense to make sure the meeting is safe and we are beyond reproach. A helpful way to check the situations we are in is the following:
STOP to ask if this is a wise activity
LOOK to make sure someone else is around
LISTEN to your gut and to the Holy Spirit for warnings about what you are doing.
All youth leaders must also follow the following guidelines:
- With the exception of the Youth Worker in exceptional circumstances, youth leaders may only meet one to one with young people of the same gender as them.
- Notes must be kept of each meeting with any concerns (no matter how small) noted down and reported to the Youth Worker who will decide if a referral to professional help is needed.
- They cannot promise complete confidentiality to the young person they are meeting. Any evidence/signs of risk of harm to self or others much be noted and reported immediately to the Youth Worker and/or Vicar. This must be clearly explained to the young person from the outset.
- Concerns must not be discussed with the young person’s parents before discussing the situation with the Youth Worker.