Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week #11: Child Protection & Child Participation

This week our speaker was Greg Burch, who is an American missionary who has been all throughout Latin America working with children at risk.  He was the director of a children’s home in Caracas, Venezuela, and since then has been working in Costa Rica with different children’s ministries.  He and his family moved back to the States 3 months ago for a period of furlough. 

Greg’s teaching was really practical and helpful for the logistical side of ministry.  His teaching had 2 main points: protecting children and including children in ministry.  After hearing stories, and doing case studies, I am thoroughly convinced of the importance of having a child protection policy.  This means, that there should be a policy put in place to protect children from adults.  There have been so many instances of children being abused within ministries by staff, volunteers, and even directors.  It is a horrible thing that happens- especially when children are put into residential care, or centers because they have already had significant trauma in their lives.  A child protection policy might include rules, like a child is never to be alone in a room with an adult.  Appropriate interaction between staff and children must be stated, to ensure that all children will be appropriately cared for. 

Greg also talked about including children in ministries.  So often children are not given a voice, and adults make choices for children, when they should be allowed to have a voice.  We saw in the Bible where God used children to participate in HUGE things for his kingdom.  Like the boy with the packed lunch was used when he gave it up and Jesus multiplied it for the multitude.  There was also Josiah, a child who became king at 8 years old who God used to turn the people back to God.  David was chosen as a shepherd boy and became God’s chosen king.  Just as God used them, and gave them a voice, we should give children a voice too.

Greg did a great job explaining the child protection policy.  I had questions about how strict the policy should be- after all, we are supposed to love children as if they were our own.  I don’t want a policy getting in the way of my ability to relate to, and minister to children.  Greg also answered a lot of my questions about how children can practically be involved.  I know that sometimes giving children the freedom to choose takes time when time is scarce.  A classroom setting is much different than a residential care setting, where children should have more freedom to choose.  There will be times when it’s appropriate to allow children to be free to chose, and other moments where it will the decisions will have to be made by the adult. 

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