Inside Bainbridge pulled an article that was published briefly last night, October 13, when we learned that a piece of information we had received was inaccurate. Here is our revision of that article.
On October 8, Woodward Middle School Principal Mike Florian announced in a letter to school parents that an investigation had been initiated by School District Assistant Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen about the presence of three youth pastor volunteers at the school over the last three years.
The investigation was prompted by concerns expressed by parents. The three men, who all represent evangelical churches, were brought into the school without the knowledge of the PTO or parents and were given ongoing access to students in the lunchroom, where they reportedly spent most of their time talking with kids. Only two of the three men had been vetted, and only with a basic background check.
A key question of the current investigation is whether the youth pastors were recruiting impressionable children in their school.
A four-page document from youth organization Bainbridge Island Young Life, titled Young Life Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap Leader Packet—Job Description, calls on young adult Leaders to “reach out to every kid in every school in Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap.”
The document describes in detail the job responsibilities of leaders: “We are looking for laborers who can pour out their lives with real abandonment for Jesus’ sake. The high school/Jr. High [sic] culture is a foreign culture. If you’ve sensed God calling you to Young Life and you’ve been pleased you don’t have to go to Africa or Ethiopia, you need to understand that the high school campus IS a foreign mission field. The harvest is plentiful. . . .”
Under its Contact Work section, the Volunteer Leader Job Description states that Leaders are to
- “spend 2-4 hrs per week outside of club in contact with non-Christian adolescents, creatively endeavoring to build friendship relationships. This contact should be a [sic] least one general and one specifically personal time with kids.”
- “Take personal responsibility for developing deeper relationships with at least three non-Christian kids.”
Under its Campaigners section, the Volunteer Leader Job Description states that Leaders are to
- “Actively seek to disciple at least one person.”
Under its Camping section, the Volunteer Leader Job Description states that Leaders are to
- “Prayerfully prepare to get specific kids to camp, whom we have been building relationships with.”
Bainbridge Island Young Life head Lance Klopp told me that the three pastors at Woodward are “unofficially affiliated” with Young Life and that they attend some of the group’s camps and events but are not Leaders.
When I asked Klopp if Young Life has Leader volunteers in any Bainbridge schools, he said there are Young Life parent volunteers in BHS and possibly others, but there are currently no non-parent Young Life volunteers. However, Western Washington Young Life lists Woodward and BHS as having active ministries. And the Every School alliance, of which the national Young Life organization is a member, shows Woodward and BHS as having been “adopted” for evangelical “outreach.” The Every School website provides detailed strategies for how to create school campus ministries.
Woodward Principal Florian, a leader at the Peninsula Bible Fellowship, told Inside Bainbridge that no one from Young Life has been a volunteer at the school since he became Principal in 2009.
School Board President Mike Spence said he is familiar with the Young Life document and is concerned about its language and intent: “We can’t facilitate this; a kid who is a member of Young Life has a right to free speech, but we can’t enable this at Woodward. It’s a fine line that we’re walking here: The moment we facilitate [church recruitment] it crosses the line.”
Spence guessed that the investigation would conclude by the end of this week.
- Deja Vu: The School District Has Dealt with Controversial Youth Pastor Visits Before
- Letter from the Editors: Woodward School Investigation Is Not a ‘Witch Hunt’
- Statement from School Assistant Superintendent About Woodward Investigation
- Investigation Launched into Ongoing Presence of Three Youth Pastors at Woodward Middle School
Photo courtesy of Ian Sane.