Written by:
Chris Wilterdink

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Imma Uber Home from Church

Part of the “Things That Were Not a Thing Like 10 Years Ago” Series

 

By Chris Wilterdink

 

Some things about adolescence will never change. Pimples, hair showing up in strange places, self-reflection are a few of them. Some things about ministry will never change; the social aspect of faith, the connectedness in worship, seeking out a relationship with the divine. Yet, youth ministry is always changing. There simply are things like technology and cultural milestones that show up and force leaders to ask new and different questions about how they practically and theologically approach youth ministry. There are things that today’s youth experience as totally normal that would not have been a thing, 10, 5, or in some cases even a year ago.

In a recent conversation I had related to Safe Sanctuaries (risk reduction strategies to prevent abuse of the vulnerable), the topic of youth heading home from church came up. A youth worker had the question, “So, what do I do when a parent calls an Uber to pick their kid up at the end of youth group?”

There simply are things like technology and cultural milestones that show up and force leaders to ask new and different questions about how they practically and theologically approach youth ministry.

*Crickets*

*The sound of wheels slowly turning in my own head*

That simply wasn’t a thing when I started in youth ministry. In fact, when I was younger there was no internet! I did have rules from my parents that included “Don’t get into cars with strangers” and eventually “Don’t talk to people you don’t know on the internet”. Now, literally a cultural norm in the US is to use an app to get into a car, with a stranger! I can use the internet on purpose to get into a stranger’s car!!!

So, what can we do to answer that question? What is a youth leader to do when a parent (or even the youth themselves) plans to use an Uber (or Lyft, taxi or ridesharing service)? Where does a youth leader’s responsibility for the safety of their youth stop after an event is done?

Make sure that the parents and the youth are on the same page.
  • First, consider your church’s Safe Sanctuary policy. Are there items already related to taxis or pick up procedures that would apply to the ride-sharing scenario? A policy should at minimum have a “2 adults present with youth” line in there somewhere. How can you make sure a second adult is somehow present during the ride? The driver accounts for one adult. The second adult may need to be you, a volunteer, another church member, or the parent of the child on the phone on speaker during the ride.
  • Consider transportation guidelines. Does your church require background checks for all drivers of church activities? Do you need to create a waiver (or language on an existing waiver) that allows parents to “opt-in” their youth to ride-sharing services? Does your church (like many schools) have a list of approved adults who can pick up children from activities? Does that form or list allow for the use of a ride-sharing service?
  • Talk with the parents of said youth. Make sure that the parents and the youth are on the same page. Talk with the parent before the youth gets in the car. Ride sharing services do require their drivers to have their map running so that the app can correctly calculate the fees. There will be a record of the route taken that the youth or parent could send you to confirm that they arrived safely at their destination.
  • When does a leader’s responsibility for a youth end? At the conclusion of an event’s published time and once the youth is off of church property. Both conditions have to be met. What does your post-event pick up look like? Do you know who is picking up which youth? Or do they just head out to the parking lot without adults knowing who is headed where? This may be an opportunity for intentionality. (As a parent of young children, I think about the rigmarole of figuring out who is approved to pick up my kids from their elementary and pre-schools!)

Just like other parts of ministry, Safe Sanctuaries policies must be updated periodically to address new technology. This is done in the name of reducing the risk of abuse and is an absolute must to create safe spaces where the Holy Spirit is free to move. Now, on the next thing that wasn’t a thing all that long ago!