Would you escalate this?

deee_gwJune 13, 2014

As many of you know, I live in a very small town. Forget six degrees of separation, it's more like one or two.

I was in Starbucks yesterday. Anyone who has been in this particular store knows that everyone in the dining area can hear most of the surrounding conversations.

Two young men sat next to me and I quickly realized that the were youth pastors for the largest church in town. They talked about work for a while and then they started some mild gossiping about high school kids that I know that are working at the church this summer. The gossiping quickly turned to very confidential matters and I was completely mortified by what I was hearing.

I went to their table (which was about two feet away) and quietly as possible said that I could hear everything they were saying and I knew the kids that they were discussing. They mumbled an apology, lowered their voices and started talking about other things.

Do you think they were sufficiently chastised by my intervention or should I make a call to the senior pastor at the church?

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I think you did the right thing, and I'd let it drop. People gossip, it's human nature. Especially if they work together.

Things will only get worse if you complain. Maybe these guys learned their lesson.

I'm glad you said something!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:43AM
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No I would not escalate this, you served them a good lesson already, and you were kind to do it that way, hopefully they learned their lesson and will be more discreet in the future.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:44AM
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That depends. Is it possible that the confidential information was not information that should have even been discussed between the two of them? And at the point where they were discussing these very confidential matters, were they using names? It is very possible that what was being discussed was shared with ONE of them and should not have been discussed even between the two of them. If these matters were shared with one of them in his professional capacity and in confidence, it is egregious that they were even discussing it together.

Even if they are not legally bound to confidentiality, just by nature of their position, they should absolutely have realized without you even having to tell them, that their conversation should not have been happening (either at all, if it was confidential b/w one of them and someone they counsel) in public.

How old were these "young men?"

Honestly, if it were me, and most especially as the mother of young kids/teenagers, I would complain to their pastor. What if this had been a teacher discussing your child in a public place and it was something extremely confidential (which you made it sound)? I would most definitely report it to the principal even after saying something directly to the teacher. The fact that this is a very small town makes it even worse that they didn't *think* to keep that type of conversation to a very private setting. I'm sorry, but this is something I would have to report to a superior as it is completely unprofessional.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:02AM
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Phew! I didn't want to call the church but I was really shaken by how cavalier they were with the confidential information. They seem like decent guys and hopefully they learned a lesson. Thanks for your input.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:03AM
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I have to agree with fourkids4us.

Think about what they were saying and would you want your children being discussed like that, about that particular situation, in public. If the answer is "I wouldn't care" then don't take it any further. If the answer is "I would care because of the delicate subject matter and how people would perceive my kids" then heck yes, call the senior pastor.

Youth pastors need to have the respect of the members of their youth group with regards to confidentiality, trust, safety-net, and gossiping about their members in public does not bode well for their ability to lead and to teach.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 12:29PM
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I agree that these men have a lot to learn if that's how they are handling confidential info on youth they are working with. If you don't want to speak to the sr. pastor about the situation, then I think I would make an appt with each of the youth pastors and speak to them privately about your concerns (that you've been thinking about it and realized just your comments in Starbucks weren't satisfactory to your sensibilities about the seriousness of the situation).

Those meetings (their responses) would inform me on whether I felt like I needed to take things to the senior pastor.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 1:22PM
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Think of it as doing something for those who are members of the church. If you say nothing, and it gets around that these pastors were having this sort of discussion (you might have not been the only one in Starbucks who heard) church attendance might drop off because many people discuss delicate situations with church pastors during difficult times in their lives.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 1:32PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

No...you raised their awareness which was what was necessary. I'm sure they'll be more careful in the future.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 1:57PM
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I was going to suggest speaking to their boss, not in a guns blazing/heads should roll way, but as part of their continued education. I overheard this, I was uncomfortable overhearing it, I did mention it to them but I thought you should also be aware of this.

But I think olychick's idea of speaking directly to them is maybe better, if you know them and attend that church. It's a good learning experience for them, they need to be aware of what they say, when they say it, and who might overhear it.

If you aren't a member of their church and wouldn't have any reason to come in contact with them, then I would call the Senior Pastor. It's his job to oversee and teach them but if he isn't aware of areas of weakness (discretion, confidentiality) then he can't help them improve.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 2:03PM
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I agree with hhireno. I think a lot of this depends upon your extent of familiarity with the people involved and your participation in the church. I applaud you for speaking to them at the time of the offense, as many (or most) people would have felt shocked but simply walked away. Their reaction indicates embarrassment, naturally, but because of the positions they hold and the trust that has undoubtedly been placed in them by the kids they minister to, I do think that a discussion with the senior pastor is appropriate, if you're comfortable with that. The young men may feel chastened, but they might not fully grasp the vital importance of confidentiality, and a young life may suffer greatly if that lesson is not fully absorbed.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 2:16PM
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They were probably sufficiently chastised by your intervention, but I would still call the senior pastor of their church.

In my experience there tends to be more frequent turnover in the youth ministry staff, so the senior pastor or whoever manages the church staff needs to be sufficiently training or counseling their personnel on an on-going basis to be discreet and keep private matters private.

I'm sure you hate to make the call. It's a blessing that you were in that Starbucks that day.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 2:21PM
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I too would call the senior pastor. Think of it in business terms. They are employees of the church and the senior pastor is their boss. They have either not learned how to perform their jobs with discretion or don't think it is that important. (As anyone who lives in a small town knows, it is!) It's not your place to teach them a lesson or chastise them, it is their employer's.....to either lecture and retrain or fire.

You were nice to speak to them first, Deee. I would have called the senior pastor right there, told him what was going on and handed the phone to one of the gossiping juniors!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 2:56PM
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my vote would be not to take it further, unless the conversation implied something criminal or imminent harm to someone

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 3:33PM
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In our church, the senior minister is Not the boss.
The senior minister is an employee just like the youth minister; they are equal co-workers.
Telling the senior minister would Not be the thing to do.
If you plan any further action, it'd be good to do a little research and make sure who to go to first in that particular church.
A chairman? An elder or deacon? An administrator?
(After all, ministers do not hire themselves, nor fire themselves.)

I think you did the right thing in speaking to them immediately.
That's hard to do sometimes, and I admire you for it.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 3:50PM
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Good point, melsouth. In our church the rector is not the employer, per se, of the assistant clergy or other paid staff but s/he is their boss nonetheless. Other churches have different management structures, so I would go to the boss, whoever that might be.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 5:23PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I think that, although the senior pastor may not technically be the 'boss,' he does have a great deal more experience (at least those I have known) and is most probably older. Simply by virtue of those facts, he would be an excellent mentor to set these two straight on what is and is not proper behavior. It sounds as if they have no common sense. Neither do they seem to have any understanding of the confidentiality required in their profession.

I always wonder about anyone who is willing to discuss other people in any public setting. It is just plain stupid-you never know who might overhear you.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 6:13PM
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Do you think church leadership would want to know? Do you think the parents of the kids being discussed want the church to know? I do.

They may need to speak to all the youth at the church about gossiping and also adjust the amount of personal information which is available to program participants.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 6:23PM
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