When you see the word “creep” what comes to mind? Is it a green zombie character from Minecraft and the gamer world? Is it a song titled “Creep” released by TLC, Radiohead, Stone Temple Pilots, or Korn? Or is it of a strange dude with a mustache lurking in the shadows wearing nothing but a trench coat? Yikes, I know!
All joking aside if you work long enough in the field of disability ministry you will encounter a “creeper” situation.
What are we talking about here?
A situation where sexuality or inappropriate sexuality will put you in a tough situation as a ministry leader.
In my time working in the local church setting, I encountered several situations including but not limited to older men creeping on underaged girls, public masturbation, sexual offenders, couples having sex in church restrooms, and restraining order situations. If I am being entirely honest even I felt like a fish out of water dealing with some of these situations. So why isn’t anyone talking about this? Easy. Because most people feel inadequate talking about situations involving sexuality. Let’s get real and leave the “creeper” name behind because people are people, and we should not call people names.
Here are the facts:
- ALL people have hormones, sexual needs, and desires
- God has designed people as sexual beings
- Not ALL people have been taught what is appropriate when acting upon sexual needs and desires
- Not ALL people have been taught what is God’s plan for sexuality
- Not ALL people follow God’s plan for sexuality even after being taught
None of these above facts are unique to disability ministry. They apply across the board to ALL people. That being said, some of these issues are extenuated or complicated by disability or the societal rules and norms that surround disability.
What can you do?
- Teach God’s plan for sexuality
- Teach what is appropriate and not appropriate
- Teach people how to avoid making others feel uncomfortable
- When a situation arises gather ALL the facts from ALL the sides
- Don’t jump to conclusions
- Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations
- Never have conversations alone and always report up to leadership the situation at hand
- Continue sharing God’s plan for sexuality
- Be clear about expectations when present in ministry environments
- Put things in writing
- Sign pledges
- Hold people accountable
- Place firm boundaries in place
- Assign buddies to always keep eyes on individuals
- Alert security when individuals are present
- Ask them to be present or to drop in routinely
- Don’t ban people from ministry unless there is an official restraining order or documentation of being a sexual offender
- Even if people must be banned from being present during ministry don’t stop extending ministry to them
- Remember the people of concern need the good news of Jesus as much or more than anyone else in your ministry
- Understand that the adults in your ministry have the right to make their own decision even if they are not the best decisions based upon God’s plan for sexuality
- Extend grace when mistakes are made
- No one is beyond forgiveness
- Don’t cut people off
If you still feel like a fish out of water when it comes to this topic of sexuality take a deep breath. It is okay. We are here to help.
We have a curriculum series called “More than Friends” that looks at romantic relationships and it answers some of the difficult questions you may not be sure about how to best approach. We are also available to help talk you through any of the many sticky situations you may find yourself in.
At the end of the day know this. If you stay in the disability ministry game long enough you will encounter an uncomfortable situation surrounding sexuality. Don’t run from it or hope that it will just go away. You are not alone and we can help.