What are we about?
We believe Middle School students are important to God, that He has wonderful plans for their lives, and that they can accomplish great things for Him! We have large group meetings where students can hear quality Bible teachings and smaller meetings where they can build great friendships in a spiritual community. For more information, click to learn more about our meetings, our wonderful staff, and Dwell's statement of faith.
What do we teach at the big meetings and cell groups?
Most large and small meetings will be teaching through books of the Bible, in addition to topical studies relevant to middle schoolers. Here are teaching outlines available to cell leaders to help them prepare their teachings.
Welcoming Students with Disabilities
See our Access Ministries page for more information about serving and equipping people with special needs. In Middle School Ministry in particular, we want to do everything we can to incorporate students with disabilities into our cell groups, believing that "God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (1 Corinthians 12:18). The goal is to fully include all students as much as possible. Each case is unique, so we encourage home group leaders and parents to contact us to discuss the opportunities and needs germane to specific students.
About our Ministries:
All throughout the year, we spend hundreds of hours recruiting leaders from within our church for middle school work. This is no easy task, especially in a cell-based church, like Dwell, where potential youth workers are already busy serving in their college or adult groups. If someone is interested in volunteering in Middle School Ministry, they fill out an application and discuss with one of their home church leaders to receive a reference. We then evaluate the application, check the reference, perform a background check, and interview the applicant. We will then place them in a cell group or as a volunteer at one of our big meetings.
We only accept applicants who have the spiritual and relational maturity to offer true spiritual leadership to the students. This means we want the kind of leaders who are already doing the things we hope our students will do (spending regular time with God, serving others, sharing their faith, maintaining healthy friendships, and exercising self-control). This is the kind of leader we seek. However, since working with middle schoolers presents unique challenges, we offer ongoing coaching and training to all leaders through classes, written resources, and frequent communication with staff members.
Policies for volunteers
To insure the safety of our youth and protect our church from liability, we have developed and enforced distinct policies for our adult leaders.
Dangerous & Illegal Activities
The following policy should be adhered to regarding the participation in potentially dangerous & illegal activities while engaged in youth work. Failure to comply with this policy will result in disciplinary action. Please see to it that all of the work force in your group is familiar with this policy.
- No minor or adult student leader is permitted to engage in illegal activities, as provided for in the City Ordinance of Columbus, the Ohio Revised Code, or other applicable laws or statutes during a Dwell sponsored event.
- If there is an activity that is potentially dangerous, yet legal, the student group leader must receive a signed written waiver from the participating minor's parents or guardians in order for the minor to participate. Additionally, student groups leaders must exercise good judgment not to incur undue risks.
The following is a policy to be adhered to regarding the consumption of alcohol while engaging in youth work. Failure to comply with this policy will result in disciplinary action which could include the withdrawal of an individual leader from the student group or the withdrawal of an individual from a position of leadership in Dwell. As per the enclosed Ohio Revised Code, no one under the age of 21 years can legally consume alcohol without consent and presence of their parents, legal guardians, or spouse (if spouse is 21 years of age or older). Accordingly, we observe three rules outlined below. See the attached relevant sections of the Ohio Revised Code as well. Please see to it that all of the work force in your group is familiar with this policy. As per Sections 4301.63 and 4301.69 of the Ohio Revised Code, "Underage person" includes any person under the age of 21 years.
- No underage person is permitted to consume alcohol at any Dwell sponsored event except as otherwise provided in Section 4301.69 (B) of the enclosed Ohio Revised Code.
- Under no circumstances should any adult student worker provide underage persons with alcoholic beverages except as otherwise provided in Section 4301.69 (A) of the enclosed Ohio Revised Code.
- Adult youth leader may not consume alcohol at youth sponsored events.
The leaders of the Dwell Community Church felt it necessary to adopt a policy for the Student Ministries Division regarding sexual misconduct and adult youth workers. By no means do believe that our church could be immune to such an occurrence; therefore, we feel an aggressive position should be taken in protecting against incidents of sexual misconduct between adult leaders and minors in our youth groups. In doing this, we will be protecting minors and their families from the trauma associated with such incidents, as well as protecting our church. The risk of sexual contact between adult leaders and youth group members can never be eliminated, but steps can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of sexual seduction. Below are policies that need to be followed by all adult workers.
- Adult youth leaders should not be alone with a youth member of the opposite sex.
This means that an adult male leader should not be permitted to drive an unaccompanied female student either to or from fellowship activities. Adult male leaders should be strictly prohibited from having sole custody of a female member of the youth group at any time, for any reason, with few exceptions (e.g., a younger brother or sister of the adult volunteer). Adult female leaders should also follow this guideline with male members of the youth group. It also means that the adult male youth leader and a female member of the youth group should not be permitted to engage in private counseling sessions, or to associate alone, with few exceptions. The same would be true with an adult female leader and a male youth. Also, it would be wise to have at least two adult leaders, preferably male and female, chaperone until the last youth leaves the meeting.
- Inappropriate touch
The youth leader should not engage in inappropriate physical touch with youth members of the opposite sex. Some types are listed below:
- Sitting on the lap of an adult volunteer
- Prolonged frontal embrace
- Inappropriate communication
The youth leader should not engage in inappropriate discussions with youth members of the opposite sex.
Any suspicions of inappropriate conduct should be immediately confronted and investigated. Investigations into any possible violations of this policy or other types of sexual misconduct, should be conducted. Failure of adult leaders to comply with this policy will result in disciplinary action that could include the withdrawal of the leader from the student group. If the leader is not dismissed, prompt warnings should be issued when appropriate, and the situation monitored very closely by the leadership of the group.
Any violations of the above policies should be immediately reported to the Senior Leader of the Ministry Team. If the Senior Leader of the youth program has violated the above policies, then the Division Coordinator of Student Outreach and/or the eldership of Dwell should be notified. Sexual relationships with minor members of the youth group can lead to a felony conviction and imprisonment in a state penitentiary.
Disclosure: Sexual and Physical Abuse
- Report Immediately:
- Report disclosure to your Senior Cell Group/Home Church Leader
- Together, report disclosure to Franklin County Children's Services (614-229-7000)
- Document the disclosure and give this to your youth pastor
- Never agree to keep silent.
- Be a support and direct them towards God.
- When appropriate, suggest counseling.
- First, determine how serious the disclosure is.
- Was a time, place, or method disclosed? If so, act IMMEDIATELY!
- Strongly consider contacting the parents.
- Remove any accessibility to the means.
- Call the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Be there with them.
- If they won't call, make the call and get advice from Suicide Hotline.
- Keep them talking.
- Persuade them about their value in life.
- Show how they can impact others.
- Work in conjunction with your Senior Cell/Home Church Leader who will in turn work with his/her appropriate supervisor/pastor.
- Document the conversation immediately and give it to your senior cell group leader and the staff member who coaches your group.
Important note: Students who talk about suicide must be taken very seriously. Suicide can occur without warning. If a student is talking about suicide, it is extremely important to act immediately.
Serious Moral Failure
When a leader or fellow student has suspicions about a student using drugs/alcohol or engaging in sexual sin, or in cases where a student has confessed to drug/alcohol use or sexual sin (or any other serious moral failure):
- Volunteer leaders will report immediately to director/pastor.
- We generally follow the principles found in Matthew 18:15-17. The goal is discipline, not punishment. Cases need to be treated individually.
- Volunteer leadership will contact parents in these types of cases, but we generally give the students an opportunity to be open and admit to their parents first. (This is a healthy step for students to learn how to admit failure and be open with their parents)
- Volunteer leaders work in conjunction with the appropriate overseer/pastor of such cases, as these cases are serious and may lead to formal church discipline, which needs to be sanctioned by the church. Read more about church discipline.
- Disciplinary consequences vary from case to case. Here are some examples of types of actions students may be counseled to or required to take; practice confession (to parents and peers), get counseling, enter rehabilitation, read specific scripture/literature related to the offense, letter of apology to write, ending damaging relationships, suspension from meetings, and other types disciplinary actions in conjunction with the student’s parents and youth leaders.
Our meetings are fun and exciting, but they must be safe and appropriate as well. It's not always easy to tell when something is out of line, so we have developed clear policies regarding discipline and we regularly coach leaders about behavior issues large and small. Discipline is a way that we serve the students, by helping the offender course correct and by protecting students from the actions of other students. It is done in the context of God's grace. We train our leaders to accept all students and strive to show them grace even in the midst of behavioral issues. We also emphasize that students' spiritual maturity and interest vary greatly, making a one-size-fits-all approach unworkable. Ultimately, we teach our leaders to address student behaviors in a way that points them to God's love (we accept you as you are) and God's truth (this needs to change and here's why).
Actions by students that result in disciplinary measures usually fall under 6 categories (see below). Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list and that our policies are not wooden. We place a value on flexibility when appropriate.
We emphasize fun at our meetings because following God is fun. However, sometimes students take it too far and wind up being disruptive during the meetings, causing distraction away from the Bible teaching. In theses cases, we generally follow some progressive disciplinary steps.
- Ask the student to be quiet, emphasizing that they or their friends will miss something really helpful to them.
- Move their seats, separating the disruptive students from their friends.
- If the student continues disrupting after being moved, they will be asked to leave the meeting and the adult leader will phone the parents/guardians to pick up them up early.
- If, when the student returns the next time, s/he continues the disruptive pattern, they will be asked to sit out for a week or two.
If a student has drugs or alcohol in their possession, we immediately report the incident to their parents and suspend them from meeting attendance for a period of time. In some cases, it may be necessary to call the police as well.
Many times students will want to leave the supervisory presence of adult leaders for various reasons. We can't allow this because parents are trusting us to be responsible custodians of their children, and we can't be responsible when they have left the premises. Therefore, students are not permitted to leave the premises during our meetings. If they do leave the premises, we have some progressive disciplinary steps. First, they are given a two week dismissal from the meetings. If they offend again, they will not be permitted to attend for an indefinite period of time.
Arguing and contention is typical during this age and a certain amount should be tolerated. What should not be tolerated is when the fighting and contention begins to affect the overall unity and mission of the group. Even small pockets of division can have a major effect on the group, destroying the collective witness of the Body of Christ. When divisiveness occurs, it must be dealt with firmly, cautiously and with much prayer. Much of our divisions have been remedied by sitting both parties down and mediating the conflict. Resolution usually comes when both parties wind up genuinely owning some portion of problem and apologizing.
Would you send your child to a meeting knowing there's a good chance s/he will get assaulted? Not likely. Parents need to know they are leaving their child in a safe environment. To that end, we don't permit physical fighting in our meetings or events. To head this off, we let our students know the following:
- We don't permit physical fighting
- If they engage in physical fighting, they will be suspended from all of our Middle School programs for an indefinite period of time.
We do not allow sexual contact of any kind during our meetings, and we strive to eliminate the possibility of this occurring. This means no coupling off. If a leader finds a couple who has isolated themselves, the leader explains our policy and reasons. The couple is usually understanding and cooperative when we approach them with sensitivity and firmness.
In addition, the Biblical view of sexuality is continually addressed during our instruction to students. We find that students are fairly receptive when they understand the reasoning behind God's views on this.