Sometimes I like to call upon the collective wisdom of the women who read this site. Today is one of those days. A couple of things have happened in the past few weeks that make me wonder how other people make decisions regarding the safety of their tweens and teens.
The New York Times had an article recently about Pastor Matt Chandler and The Village Church regarding a lawsuit that is being brought against the church: Her Evangelical Megachurch Was Her World. Then Her Daughter Said She Was Molested by a Minister. Here is the beginning.
Christi Bragg listened in disbelief. It was a Sunday in February, and her popular evangelical pastor, Matt Chandler, was preaching on the evil of leaders who sexually abuse those they are called to protect. But at the Village Church, he assured his listeners, victims of assault would be heard, and healed: “We see you.”
Ms. Bragg nearly vomited. She stood up and walked out.
Exactly one year before that day, on Feb. 17, 2018, Ms. Bragg and her husband, Matt, reported to the Village that their daughter, at about age 11, had been sexually abused at the church’s summer camp for children.
Since then, Matthew Tonne, who was the church’s associate children’s minister, had been investigated by the police, indicted and arrested on charges of sexually molesting Ms. Bragg’s daughter.
Ms. Bragg waited for church leaders to explain what had happened and to thoroughly inform other families in the congregation. She waited for the Village to take responsibility and apologize. She waited to have even one conversation with Mr. Chandler, a leader she had long admired.
But none of that ever came.
“You can’t even take care of the family you know,” she remembered thinking as she walked out of the large auditorium. “Don’t tell more victims to come to you, because you’re just going to cause more hurt.”
I’ve been thinking about these kinds of things lately because we have to make some decisions about activities where we are not present. We’ve also been directly impacted by the choices of others regarding these issues. I’m being purposefully vague, but absolutely nothing bad has happened. We’ve simply run into some situations that have perplexed us.
How Do You Protect Your Tweens and Teens?
How do you make decisions about what to do in areas such as:
- church activities
- birthday parties
- youth group
- going to other people’s homes
- homeschool activities
- extra-curricular activities
when you are not going to be present and the adults in charge are not people you know well or even know at all?
Short of locking up your child or turning into the ultimate helicopter parent, we can’t be with our child all the time. And yet it’s clear that all the procedures and such put in place by churches and other organizations that work with minors don’t necessarily protect the child.
Even more disturbing, there is a clear pattern that when caught in a difficult situation, church leadership often prioritizes protecting the church’s reputation over doing the right thing by the victim. It’s really sad that as parents we feel we can’t trust even churches to do the right thing, but that’s where we are in our culture today.
Beyond the threats to physical safety, there are also the complications of bullying, significant ideological differences, etc. I’m assuming anyone who reads my website is already committed to keeping open the lines of communication and preparing their child for ideological differences they will encounter. But how do you decide how long you will “‘protect” them and when they are ready to face the world as it is?
And then there is the entire online and social media thing.
What is Your Thought Process?
So what do you do? What is your thought process?
- Are there things that you absolutely will not let your tweens or teens do? Are there things that are absolutely a “no” in your home?
- Or are you on the other end of the spectrum and you keep very loose reigns on your children, who they interact with, etc.?
- Are there tools that you find especially useful?
- Have you made a mistake and would be willing to share the story to help us learn from your experience?
- Are there choices you’ve made that were really good ones and you can see how you and your child reaped the benefits of them?
I sincerely want to know and I’m guessing there are other parents who would like to know how others make these decisions.