Why should every Teen Challenge organization have a signed Code of Conduct Agreement with each of their employees? As a Christian discipleship ministry, the biblical moral absolutes that govern our day-to-day behavior runs counter to the moral relativism that has been embraced by many in our 21st century America.
In recent years, new laws have been legislated that make it illegal to discriminate based on one’s lifestyle choices. Historically, the courts have exercised the “Ministerial Exception” when it comes to resolving employment disputes between religious organizations and those who are employed by them when it involves a violation of its stated moral and/or spiritual beliefs and practices. However, the courts are beginning to change how this “exception” is being applied when a case involves a plaintiff’s civil rights. A change like this means that the leadership of each Teen Challenge organization needs to be clear about the behavioral standards they expect from their employees, have a signed Code of Conduct Agreement in place with each employee, then enforce it consistently and judiciously with everyone.
What is a Code of Conduct Agreement? A Code of Conduct is a signed agreement that functions as a rule or guide outlining the behavioral standards an employer expects their employees to live by as a condition of continued employment. Because Teen Challenge is a Christian discipleship ministry, a Code of Conduct Agreement would not only reflect the biblical moral absolutes revealed in Scripture, but a prohibition of those habits and activities that run contrary to the Christian lifestyle promoted at Teen Challenge.
A case in point is the growing acceptance in our culture to endorse gay sexuality. Many young people who come to Teen Challenge for help have been involved in homosexual relationships. If one of these young people take a staff position after graduation and it is discovered later that they have started up another homosexual relationship, the Code of Conduct Agreement they signed provides a clear way for the ministry to deal with this. Below is an example of how one could word the clear biblical ideal for sexual relationships:
“Followers of Jesus Christ shall uphold chastity among the unmarried (1 Cor. 6:18) and the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman (Heb. 13:4). Scripture condemns all sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman. “
These standards do not make a special case of homosexuality. To deviate from God’s ideal is to deviate from God’s ideal. When this is applied equally in every incident where an employee, no matter who, has violated the stated expectation of the Code of Conduct, the matter can be easily handled without violating their civil rights. If you do not already have a Code of Conduct Agreement in use at your center, a sample of a Code of Conduct can be downloaded from our staff website. The sample will provide a good starting point for your Code of Conduct Agreement but should be expanded upon to reflect more fully your expectations.