There is a rule we live by as youth pastors (a code if you will) that joins us all together as fellow laborers in the body of Christ. There are things that we agree to refrain from for the good of the kingdom of God and the health of our flock. From time to time it is good to remind ourselves what it is and why it is so important to stay connected to each other.
We don’t bash each other. No matter if you found out that the youth pastor across the street is giving out $100 bills at his weekly gathering for new people (actually happened), we do not talk bad about them. We praise them for whatever we can find (even if it is just a nice fashion sense), and we say something good. We don’t critique their style of ministry, we don’t comment on their lack of focus on “depth.” We don’t even point out how many churches they’ve been at in the past year. We just don’t do that.
We Don’t Recruit Kids from Other Churches. Numbers are not so great this time of year, and as you are meeting the BFF of one of your core students you think they might be interested in coming to camp. Then, you find out she goes to another church. Though you may know it would take just a nudge to get her to start coming to your church, you resist the temptation. Instead you praise her youth minister for her nice fashion sense and talk about how much their church rocks. We don’t bash her youth pastor (see #1), we don’t talk about how our church has something that is better than her church. We don’t even ask her to try it out with her friend. We just don’t do that.
We Don’t Stay in Our Office. As much as it might make the church secretary happy to have you at your desk whenever a call comes through, we don’t do that. The church does not exist within the walls of the building we call “a church.” The church is the people in the world, and you are called to minister to them. You go to where they are, help with their Christian club, chaplain the polo team, or volunteer in the front office. We don’t avoid our bad memories of the lunchroom by staying in our office, we don’t schedule every second so we can’t get out. We don’t even use a hostile culture as an excuse to stay away. We just don’t do that.
We Don’t Confuse Ministry with Friendship. There is a need for us all to be accepted and that need was never more pronounced and filled with hurt and worry than when you were a teen. But even if the cool kids ask you to hang out, we don’t start thinking of teens as friends. The youth you are ministering to are not your peers, they do not need another friend, they need a minister. They need someone to care for, nurture, and protect their soul. We don’t invite kids to our party and we don’t take sides in relationship drama. We don’t even post pictures of teens online calling them “my friends.” We just don’t do that.
We Don’t Meddle When its Over. At some point you will get a new job and move on. When that happens the new girl is going to do things differently and may even change your favorite thing. People are going to call you and ask what you think they should do, and students are going to try and avoid connecting with the new person out of loyalty to you. When that happens, we don’t keep taking every call from the old place; we don’t ever respond to a request for what we think about the new person or how they do things (see #1). We don’t even have a Bible study with the old group. We just don’t do that.
We Don’t Undermine Parents. You have your own parenting style (or idea of what your style will be). At some point a student is going to come up to you and tell you the story of how their parents did something to them that you think is not the best way to handle that as a parent. You are going to want to side with the student and tell them how wrong their parent is, but we don’t. We will build up their parent and praise them as if they were a fellow youth pastor. We don’t talk bad about their parents, and we don’t act like we are their parents. We don’t even make jokes about how lame their parents act. We just don’t do that.
We Don’t Turn Denominations into Gangs. I know that you believe strongly in once-saved-always-saved or that God’s grace is offered freely to all people or that free will is an absolute, irrefutable reality of existence, and that’s fine. It’s fine that you appreciate your doctrinal heritage but we can sometimes start sounding like our fellow Christians who believe differently than us are the enemy who must be defeated at all cost. Though we may want to produce teens who believe identical to us, we don’t make out other denominations to be foolish or unintelligent, and we don’t act like our group has everything right. We don’t even ignore other churches and never team up for city-wide events. We just don’t do that.
I know I have missed one or two. What about you? What parts of the code did I miss?