Monday, July 6, 2015

How Do College Ministers Protect Themselves Legally?

Several years ago I went to a meeting where they told us not to hug students in order to protect ourselves legally. I continued to hug many need it. I said,"If you hear about me being in jail, you won't be surprised". It wasn't bad advice and I was very conscious of how and in what setting I hugged students. Some years ago we were building a new Baptist Student Center on the campus at Arkansas State. My office opened off of the secretary/receptionist office. Many students passed by my door in the offices as they used computers, copy machine, etc related to their leadership roles. It was suggested that my door should be all glass in the top half. I resisted that suggestion because students often need to talk about personal things and sometimes get very emotional in those times. I did not want them to feel they were on display to others. And, I did not want that to keep them from feeling they could talk to me about very personal and sometimes emotional issues. I understood the need to be wise. We settled on my door having a window on one side about 3 inches wide and running about the top half of the door.

We are foolish if we do not think we could be falsely accused of something that would tarnish our reputation, hurt our ministry, cause us to lose our job, or even be sued. I encourage you to think through some things. Here are some things to think about.

-Meeting with Students: Where or how can you meet privately, but be wise?

-Rooming with students on trips: Even if multiple students are sharing a room, is it better for you to have a private room?

-Consent forms: When should you have a signed consent form for a student under 21 to participate in a certain trip, activity, etc? It would seem missions trips (and especially foreign) would be the most likely. Should your form ask any and all medications the student is taking? Is there an emergency contact number for the student's parent or guardian?

-Background Checks: Should you have official backgrounds checks done on students who will be working with children on mission trips or in weekly activities?

-Use of pictures: Ok, here is the craziest one. I recently heard of a campus ministry who received a bill for $1200 for the use of a picture they had found on the Internet. It was a copyrighted picture. They had used it in one of their publications.

-Drivers: What information should you have on students who drive on trips?

I wish this post had answers. I don't know all the answers. And, I think part of it relates to how you feel you must do in order to do what God has called you to. My point is...don't do it without intentional forethought! Be wise and seek wise counsel.

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