It’s been cold and icy across the eastern half of the United States. Roads are slick and everybody is headed to the store for milk and bread. I’m not sure what it is about snow and ice that make southerners want to have bread and milk in their kitchens, but they aren’t prepared for bad weather unless it is there.
Having once been young, I better understand the desire that young people have to play in the snow. I noticed on FaceBook that several churches took advantage of the recent Presidents’ Day weekend to take their youth on skiing trips. Lots of pictures of smiling young people packed into vans and headed for the slopes.
Among those were pictures of loaded vans where it was clear that no one was wearing a seatbelt. Selfies of young people piled into vehicles, sitting on their friends’ laps – more bodies inside than the vehicle was designed to carry.
Here’s the problem. If there should happen to be an accident, even a minor one, folks will point to those photos to prove that the church was not properly caring for and supervising those trusted to their care. Even if the event was on a different day, the pictures reflect that supervisors were not paying attention.
Drivers and supervisors must require that everyone in the vehicle be seated and buckled in. Regardless of the ages of the passengers, the leaders must insist that everyone cooperates.
Automobile accidents aren’t the only concern. What if, two weeks after a wonderful trip that everyone enjoyed, an angry father complains to the pastor that someone inappropriately touched his child while too many teens were packed into a van? And he pulls out all these pictures….
I realize that my suggestions will not be appreciated by everyone, and some may think we go overboard and stifle all the fun. But never before have churches been so vulnerable to lawsuits, and never has the news media been so eager to portray Christians and churches as bumbling weirdos. All it takes is one minor accident or one simple incident to ignite issues that may take a church years to overcome.
Your staff and volunteers may not think all this through. Your youth certainly won’t. It is up to church leaders to educate and train your staff to follow established procedures at all times.
And it won’t hurt for them to take a few photos, also. Pictures that show vans correctly loaded with seat belts in use. Pictures that show supervisors in the vehicle. Having these will help counter those other photos that always seem to capture everyone’s attention.
Sit down with your team and create a transportation and trip policy. Review it periodically. Use it to train your staff – and insist that all follow it.