All posts written by Jared Kennedy

Policies, Predators, and Penn State Football

(c) John Suder, Flickr

I’m a huge college football fan, and I went to bed on Saturday night thinking that I’d watched the biggest college football event of the season–the “Game of the Century” between #1 LSU and #2 Alabama.

I didn’t know it then, but that was not even the biggest college football event of the week. Since Saturday, talk of the national championship race and the rumors about conference realignment which have dominated sports headlines this season have been muted by a story that is truly tragic.

Last night, the career of the winningest coach in in Division I college football history, Penn State’s Joe Paterno, was brought to an end because of a sin of omission. He was fired for his silence.

You’ve probably heard the story already. In 2002, Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who is now the receivers coach at Penn State, observed a former assistant coach and professor emeritus, Jerry Sandusky, forcing a young boy into a sexual act in the school’s football locker room showers. McQueary reported the incident to Coach Paterno, and Coach Paterno reported it to his superiors, athletic director Tim Curley and a vice president Gary Schultz. No one reported the incident to the authorities. Sandusky, at the time, ran a non-profit organization for boys. He brought the boys onto the Penn State campus when he was a coach; he continued to do so even after his own retirement from Penn State’s coaching staff; and he continued to do so after the report reached university officials.

Sandusky’s actions finally came into public view on Saturday when he was arrested and charged with 40 felony counts of sexual abuse involving young boys. Curly and Shultz were also arrested and charged with failure to report the abuse and with perjury. The Pennsylvania grand jury confirmed that both Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier also had knowledge of the 2002 report of abuse and never contacted the police. Even though those two men are not under investigation, their firing was inevitable once the facts became known. Both men had credible knowledge that  at least one young boy had been sexually abused, and neither did anything effective to stop it.

Why would anyone cover-up such an act? Why wouldn’t justice be pursued to the end?  If the allegations are found to be true, how could it be that a prestigious institution like Penn State harbor a serial child sex abuser? Is there any room for compassion for Jerry Sandusky or Coach Paterno and the Penn State officials? What is keeping this from happening at our school or church? I can’t speak to the motives behind the silence of the Penn State officials, but I can speak to two temptations that Christian leaders face when confronted with these types of situations:

  1. Legal requirements and policies put us off, so we’re tempted to ignore them. As Christian leaders, we have a redemptive mission–one that seeks to help life and forgiveness to flourish. Policies and legal requirements put us off, because they are necessarily restrictive. They aren’t inherently life-giving.  However, we must see their God-given role in exposing sin (Romans 7) and restraining evil (Romans 13). Anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect is a mandatory reporter, and they must report immediately. Neither fear of making a false accusation nor an arrogant thought that the church can do a better job investigating the incident than the authorities should lead us to disobey the law and put the children in our care at risk. “The government does not bear the sword for nothing.”  As one Christian leader wrote earlier today, “Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk.” At SojournKids, we use this checklist to train all of our children’s ministry servants on Abuse Reporting Policies. If you don’t have something like this, please feel free to adapt it for your ministry (and follow it).

  2. We’re tempted to think that following our legal responsibility is enough. But following the law shouldn’t keep us from acting in a redemptive way as the church. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul makes clear that those who continue to hide in sin will not enter God’s kingdom. In his list of offenders, Paul includes those who would today fit the category of “sexual offenders.” Then, he says, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” We hope that this is an accurate description of our church as well. We want Sojourn to be a place where sinners can come out of hiding and find a new identity—not in “what you were” but in “what you have become” in Christ Jesus. It is a great joy and privilege to shepherd and care for every person that the Lord sends our way. Like the prodigal son’s father, our desire is to welcome with joy men and women who turn away from their sins. Here is a policy that guides how our church responds and cares for a “registered sex offender.” Developing and adopting policies like this one gives our leadership team a unified plan for helping individuals in special cases. An individual’s willingness to submit to the policy shows us whether or not their heart is repentant, teachable, and able to receive gospel care.

What happened at Penn State is a terrible tragedy, but what is to keep it from happening in your ministry? If it did, how would you minisister to the victims? How would you minister to the offender? Please take time to read through the policies I’ve attached above, and adapt them for your ministry setting. My prayer is that the Lord would use the tragedy at Penn State to make every ministry more prepared.

Related Posts:

7 Financial Principles for Kids, #7: The Bible encourages us to avoid DEBT.

The Bible encourages us to avoid DEBT, because Christ has paid our debts by His love (Rom 13:8). “When you are in debt to someone, you change your relationship with them.  You no longer work for your own money, but you work for them.”  The only debt we should have as Christians is the continuing debt to love one another.  We love because He first loved us.

  • Read the story of the widow and her two sons in 2 Kings 4:1-7.  How did the sons help their mother get out of debt?
  • If your family is in debt, discuss some of the different ways everyone can work together to get out of debt.  This can be a great family project.
  • Teach your children how to say “No.”  Alcorn says, “We must model the principal of delayed gratification, and teach the value of avoiding an expenditure when the money could accomplish a higher purpose if given away or saved or used more wisely.”
  • Allow your child to hold coupons at the grocery store.  Describe how a coupon works and the wisdom of using every method available to avoid debt. Go to the store as a family and let your kids use the coupons.

7 Financial Principles for Kids, #6: How we SPEND our money shows what we treasure in our hearts.

#6 How we SPEND money shows what we treasure in our hearts.  We should not stockpile treasures on earth where material things decay.  Instead, we should invest in eternal treasures (Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:20-21).  We are to spend money wisely and be content with what we have (Phil 4:11-12; Matt 6:25-34).  The way that we spend our money reveals whether or not we treasure God.  We trust, obey, and suffer for God now, because he gives us more lasting things in eternity (2 Cor 4:17-18).
  • Lose the game of LIFE or Monopoly.  Consider this story from Randy Alcorn:

    One night when they were six and eight, my daughters asked me to play the game of “LIFE,” a popular board game I’d never played.  One of my girls expressed disappointment when she landed on a space that made her a teacher rather than a doctor or lawyer—despite the fact that in real life she wanted to be a teacher!  Why the disappointment?  Because it meant she would receive a lower salary the rest of the game.  And money, after all, is what LIFE (and for many people life) is all about. Continue Reading…

7 Financial Principles for Kids, #5: We PREPARE for the future by planning and saving.

We PREPARE for the future by planning and saving.   The Bible teaches us to plan and save for the future, because Jesus has prepared a future for us (Prov 21:20; Luke 14:28-33; John 14:1).

  • Read John 14:1-6.  Talk to your child about heaven.  Talk to them about how Jesus is preparing a place for us there.
  • As a family talk about how ants and squirrels save for their future needs.  If you are able, go outside and demonstrate that ants will take small breadcrumbs or sugar into their anthill to save for the winter.  Read Proverbs 6:6-8 and Luke 14:28-33.  Talk about how we need to prepare now to see our future plans accomplished. Talk to your children about what thins they may want to save for (a home, education, their future children, emergencies, etc.)
  • If your child does not have a jar, box, or envelope with the word SAVINGS written on it, ask your child to help you make one.  Let your child decide how much of his or her weekly earnings will be put in the box for savings.  The child should put a minimum of 10% of his or her earnings in this envelope for future savings.
  • Take your child to the bank or to an online bank to open a savings account or education fund for him or her.

7 Financial Principles for Kids, #4: We GIVE freely because we’ve freely received from Jesus!

#4 We freely GIVE because we have freely received from Jesus (Prov 11:24; Matt 10:8).  The Bible tells us to give money cheerfully to help our church and other people in need (2 Cor 9:7).  It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  The Bible teaches the principal of giving a minimum of 10% to the local church (Malachi 3:10).

  • Ask your child to help you find something in your home (it could be canned food or money) that you could give to someone in need.  As a family, give to the person in need.
  • If your child does not have a jar, box, or envelope with the word GIVING written on it, ask your child to help you make one.   Let your child decide how much of his or her weekly earnings will be put in the box for giving.  Begin with 10% of earnings.
  • Consider breaking down giving into the categories by creating an envelope for God/local church and one for others in need.