Here’s something I never expected to give much thought to when I started out as a youth worker: child care during youth group.
Last week, I had a parent of one of our teens ask if it was okay for her son to invite a friend to youth group the next week (of course!). She’d bring her 5-month-old (wha-huh?). Put on the spot like that, it took me a few moments of sputtering and stammering to form a well-thought out answer.
As my mind raced and the parent waited for an answer, I weighed the pluses and minuses of bringing a baby to youth group.
On the positive side, we don’t want to discriminate against anyone who wants to come to our meetings. We strive to do the opposite of what the world does, especially in the case of someone like a young teenage mother, and welcome them with open arms. While I’ve never experienced what it’s like to be a teen mom (the laws of the physical universe prevent that), I have to believe it can be a scary, lonely experience. She could benefit tremendously by coming into an environment where people love and care for her.
On the other hand, youth group nights are nuts. We have dozens of kids running all over the building, knocking over chairs, throwing stuff around, and risking life and limb to win games (and that’s just during the message, ha). It is the second-worst place you could bring a baby just behind the inside of a microwave. And there are all the natural disruptions that babies cause such as feeding/changing/crying that would require special preparation to accommodate.
When pressed for an immediate answer, I had to say no. Our youth group wasn’t a safe or positive place to bring a baby.
The decision nagged at me, though. Aren’t we supposed to love and treat everyone equally? Was I rejecting someone who already faced a long list of rejections?
To try and solve the issue moving forward, I’ve asked the parent who talked with me to volunteer as a babysitter during our meetings to give the teen a break from being a mom and the chance to just be a teenager for a couple hours a week. And we’re going to refer her to a local YoungLives program, which is geared especially for teen moms.
Here’s the question, though.
Did I do the right thing? How have you handled the issue of teen parents bringing babies and infants in your youth group?
And if you haven’t yet… start thinking about it! Three out of every 10 girls become pregnant at least once before age 20. You might have to face this decision yourself in the not-too-distant future.
(Image via Flickr user almoko)