Evangelical pastors in the United States and Mexico have united to condemn decades of alleged abuse revealed by over 500 former and current students of Youth With A Mission (YWAM). These complaints range from psychological abuse to sexual abuse, with everything in between. One of the most heart wrenching accounts was made by a young student in this video. (Click here to view her video.)
It is our hope that the current leaders of this massive organization (YWAM) would institute systematic changes that include accountability and reporting measures.
What should we as pastors do?
- Prior to sending a member of your congregation to any missions organization, you should speak directly with the leaders, and inquire about their chain of command, and accountability measures.
- If there is a member of your congregation serving in any missions organization, you should contact that member to check on their well-being. Failure to do so makes you culpable should things go awry.
- Ask probing questions. Often times, students are threatened by a gag order of sorts NOT to reveal or say anything about what they are learning to outsiders. Such practices should call for immediate removal of your congregant from such an organization.
- If you as a pastor feel that you do not have adequate time and resources to do the above, you have the option of referring your congregant to OMI International for accountability and oversite. Contact us for more details.
What we as pastors should require of YWAM?
- Since, YWAM is a school, and not a church, each base should be accountable to a local church(s).
- Financial records should be audited by an external state certified auditor and made accessible to the public upon request.
- Establish Written Student Safety Protocols- Every base/school should have a written plan that addresses student safety protocols, including specific sections that frame strategies for preventing abuse and misconduct.
- Establish written Policies for Clear and Appropriate Professional Boundaries Between Staff and students. While close relationships are a hallmark of YWAM, base leadership should be required to set clear expectations for professional boundaries between students and staff that clearly incorporate guidelines for interactions.
(a) Policies should require that all students and adults be treated with dignity, respect, sensitivity, and fairness. Policies should specifically state that sexual misconduct and abuse will not be tolerated. Policies or a code of conduct should include clear expectations related to levels of supervision and privacy.
(b) Relevant information about the base’s policies regarding staff misconduct should be included in all handbooks and online materials, and that information should be presented consistently.
(c) Adherence to the policies should be monitored regularly by local church leaders and enforced with disciplinary action when needed.
(d) Policies should explicitly forbid retaliation against anyone who reports code violations in good faith. Each student should have the name and contact number of an outside member of clergy whom they can call if they feel that they are being abused or treated unfairly. Any violation of the law or suspected violation must be immediately reported to the authorities.
- Bases should conduct routine, rigorous, and comprehensive screening for every prospective candidate for staff member, teacher, and student as a condition of admittance into YWAM. Screening should include interviewing the candidate, criminal background check, reference checks, and a medical evaluation as to the physical and mental health of each candidate.
These are only a few things YWAM and other organizations can do to ensure the safety and well being of future students. Feel free to follow me on Facebook.