Is There an Issue? | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
March 2013

Is There an Issue?

By Kelly Peterson-Cruse
About 3-5 times a year I am contacted asking my opinion around the subject of gay youth leaders. The outreach usually comes around assigning staff to an overnight event. Is it appropriate? What if I have parents that have "issues" around lifestyle choices ? My response is always the only issue up for discussion should be whether you have properly trained and created boundaries for all staff.
  • All staff should be trained in appropriate topics of conversation (or no conversation) with youth. I like to call it the no "sex, drugs or rock and roll" topics allowed. Help your staff come up with deflecting responses that will not back them in a corner. "That's not what we're here to focus on, let's get back to talking about...", "that is an adult decision made by adults and not appropriate topic for us to be talking about..."
  • Have in place boundaries around privacy issues (showering, changing...) around youth. My camp staff are not allowed to shower or change the same time as/in front of campers. My staff stand just outside the room or shower close enough to check on progress and to encourage them along and if necessary verbally remind them of staying on task.
  • I also ask them, if you are concerned about "lifestyle choices" do you scrutinize all your staff about their choices around such things as premarital sex and living together? choices around alcohol? Signaling out one staff member especially if they have not discussed their sexual orientation could be a much bigger "issue".
  • I also was talking to a colleague about this topic and we were discussing how we create such boundaries for all of our participating youth as well, we used to say "no purple allowed" (pink and blue..girl color/boy color mixed) ... but now it's more important to say "no purple, hot pink or electric blue allowed" It's a matter of appropriate behaviors for all not- choices.
I found it interesting how the Boy Scouts of America have most recently handled this topic as they consider their ban on gays. They are surveying parents to see their responses to scenarios. Good youth workers are ones that have good judgement, learn and implement your training and policies and demonstrate appropriate boundaries while working with our young people.