Censorship versus enforcing rules

Last week Ypulse posted an article about AT&T censoring a webcast with the band Pearl Jam due to some of their political statements. I guess it makes sense if you don’t want people to possibly associate your company with the political content you’d be distributing, but it doesn’t sound like young people are taking the censorship too lightly. In the article, Anastasia says this:

What pisses off young people? Feeling like someone in authority is making decisions for them about what they can or can’t do or what they can or can’t hear, especially when it’s a corporate entity.

So what happens when a guy visits youth group using language that would make Jerry Springer blush? Or a girl wearing a see-through shirt? It seems to me that there’s a difference between enforcing rules and censorship at youth group.

RULES: There have to be some basic standards in order just to function properly. Rules are a part of life no matter where you are and enforcing them is important to maintain stability. But neither do I expect unbelievers to act like manicured little church people. The balance for me is holding believers to a standard of accountability for appropriate Christian living, a standard that obviously does not apply to unbelievers. Unbelievers are free and encouraged to be themselves unless, as an ongoing pattern, it distracts or hinders ministry that would otherwise take place to everyone else. I will not continually sacrifice ministry to a group of students for the sake of one. So, asking a guy to stop using excessive foul language or asking a girl to wear another shirt at youth group is appropriate and necessary.

CENSORSHIP: A girl in your small group starts sharing about her parents’ recent divorce. As she shares, emotions are heightened and before long she’s crying and pouring her guts out about how intensely she hates her father. Or a high school guy tells people that he doesn’t like what you’re doing with the youth group. In either case, suppressing students’ opinions and feelings or even ignoring them altogether will have a very negative affect. At my youth group, I hope kids feel that there is nothing we can’t talk about. Nothing is off-limits. Every subject matter is fair game.

It’s OK to enforce rules, it’s not OK to censor kids.

Posted on August 16, 2007

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