Monday, March 30, 2009

When leaders disagree and kids are judged

I work with the Jr. High youth minisry at my church. A couple of weeks ago there was an uncomfortable situation where another leader (not my co-leader, fyi) both directly and indirectly condemned some of the choices my girls were making. She specifically referenced the music they listened to. The worst part about it is that part of this condemnation was said during the Sunday youth meeting in front of everyone. Fortunately no one else knew who she was talking about, but I did, and I really hoped my girls didn't pick up on it.

They did.

I was out for lunch with two of my girls and my co-leader, and when I took the girls home they brought the incident up and mentioned how judged they felt.

*sigh*. I won't explain the whole situation for privacy reasons, but the condmenation was coming for an incident that happened WHILE I WAS THERE. I was technically in charge, and I didn't challenge my girls' music choices because I didn't see any problem with them.

Realizing that this other leader was offended was really uncomfortable for me. What do you do when leaders disagree entirely?

Everyone has different standards of what they are ok with in movies, books, music, etc. The standards of the families my girls come from vary as well. The standards of us leaders vary. So - to me, the important thing is to teach these girls to THINK about their faith and how it relates to the media they are taking in, and to make wise choices in accordance with these thoughts. It is not helpful to tell them to make the same choices that we are making, labeling anything else as "bad", and blaming them for making bad choices.

It is really good that the girls brought the situation up because it meant I got to debrief with them and tell them that although I have a different opinion then the other leader about the music they were listening to at that moment, I still expect for them to respect her as a leader. And then we talked about the importance of analyzing what we listen to, and we talked about how getting caught up in rules can sometimes distract from the most important thing - a relationship with God. I hope that I managed to say those things without being condemning myself.

It is really good that the situation turned into a teachable moment and a really honest conversation between me and my girls, one of whom already feels like an "outsider" in the church world. I do still cringe when I think about how publically judged those girls felt. Given that I grew up in such a conservative community, I have seen it before, and I know that moments like that can cause kids to feel like being in the Church means acting a certain way (rather than following Christ), and when those kids begin to make choices that aren't in accordance with the "rules" of their childhood (even if those rules aren't really biblical lifestyle standards at all!), they feel like they are "bad" and are no longer acceptable within the Church.


What would you do? Any advice from the mothers out there?


Melissa said...

i don't think i have any advice, but it really bothers me when people have a problem with something and don't just go talk to the person but tell everyone else about it first...

on an interesting related note, i've recently been filling out an application for a Christian organization and one of the questions is: "Are you willing to abstain from use of, or involvement in, anything that might be offensive to fellow believers for the sake of the gospel?"
i'm not sure what i think of that question. anything? should Christians completely give up everything in their life that might be offensive to someone else? i don't think i've ever thought about that question to that extent before.

i do agree with what you said about teaching young people to think for themselves though. there has to be some balance between making rules about everything and allowing choices, but i don't know what it is. and i don't know how that relates to abstaining from things that could be offensive to other believers...

Kaycee said...

I think you handled this really well. It's so important that kids learn to think for themselves and make their own determinations as to what is offensive. Really all you can do is guide them. At that age the more you condemn something the more attractive it seems.

You are smart to make them think about their faith and how to make it work in their life. Hopefully this will help them grow into well rounded young women.

I'm sorry that the girl was embarrassed. Coming from a girl who has always been the outsider, stick close to her and make her feel welcome.