Consider this narrative: A father of two spends his weekdays at work and many of his evenings and weekends ferrying his kids to soccer practice and violin lessons. At church, he’s asked if he’d like to serve as a youth leader and realizes that he’s felt a call to that for some time. He accepts and works out the added time commitment. Then he’s told he needs to get four to eight hours of training, and that such training is offered only on Saturdays. He wonders if the church really values his time, with which he’s already so generous. Discouraged, he says he has to rethink the commitment; or he attends the training but gets little from it because he’s resentful; or he misses crucial information because four to eight hours is just too long to concentrate.

Not attending the training is the worst of all possibilities: He misreads signs of abuse, or he allows co-ed teenagers to go off on their own for long periods of time, or he doesn’t set proper boundaries—tries too hard to be the “cool” leader and, in doing so, says something inappropriate and is dismissed from the youth group, severely distorting his relationship with the parish he loved so much.

Of course, all these narratives are worst case scenarios. Having to spend a day in training isn’t usually a barrier so great to discourage someone from ministry altogether and folks typically come away with a positive, transformed opinion of the workshop and its merits. And, unfortunately, training of any length is no guarantee that misconduct won’t occur. Still, we must do everything possible to ensure that all people involved in ministry can live into their call while also receiving the appropriate training to ensure they can handle whatever situation comes their way.

The New Training: Finding the Via Media

The Episcopal Church always has been at its best when it strives for the via media—the middle way between two extremes. It must be possible to meet people where they are and to protect our Church. We believe the new training curriculum strikes that balance.

On October 17, in-person misconduct prevention workshops became two hours each. The new training includes an updated curriculum and guidelines for using social media. It has retired the “Not in My Church” video, shot in the 1970s with clothes, hairstyles and dialogue to match.

We will continue to offer online training (which isn’t affected by these changes), but recommend that those getting trained for the first time take one of the in-person workshops, rather than online. How best to meet the training needs of a parish is up to the rector to discern. With these improved offerings, we believe more Virginians will receive this vital training — a training that honors their already strong commitments to serve. We will, with God’s help.

By: Ed Keithly

Posted by Diocesan Communications

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