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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

  • Pingback: Anonymous()

  • Audio Adrenaline once said, “Don’t censor me.”

  • Haha… thanks Chris… I came to post a serious comment and now all I can think is “You sweat, you flex, you swim in your…”

  • “…s.e.x.
    I try to talk about g.o.d.
    Why you wanna censor me?”

  • i agree. this was always a bone of contention with teens i worked with in previous churches, as they could not see the difference between censorship and maintaining rules for both safety and decency.

  • Lynn

    your pictures are great! that’s so funny that your brother has kids the same age as mine… how old will mine be when you have kids???? ;)

  • Lynn

    your pictures are great! that’s so funny that your brother has kids the same age as mine… how old will they be when you have kids???? ;)

  • tom

    Well I hate to be the serious guy,but I had ssome grea experiences with this my first year full time.(last year) We had a young man coming who had a reputation at school and with the law. We let him come and he looked like a gangster, and I didnt care, he smoked but just off church property and I didnt care, He disturbed worship with a couple other guys and I overlooked. I would spend time talking to him about his life, and most of the time he lied to me, I didnt care. Several leaders poured time into him by having him over to thier house. Finally he found a place I couldnt bend. He would tell his parents he was coming to youth and stay just long enough for leaders to think he was staying and leave. After two warnings I had to tell him not to come back until he would stay the whole time. I hated it but he has been in so much trouble with the law. I couldnt chance him doing something while telling parents he was under our care.

  • tom – yeah sometimes you have to go that far. we have a 3 strike rule. if we send a student home they can’t comeback unless there is a form filled out by their parents and I meet with them and their parents. It sounds harsh but the parents really respect it. Also when you send a student home they are under your care until the reach the front door of their home. seriously. we call the parents of the student we are sending home and ask them to come get them…if they refuse to get them we let them know they are out of care and are coming home. This releases us from all legal liability.

  • Tim

    @ Tom: I’ve been in a situation like that, too, except it was a group of about 4 kids, not just one. It breaks the heart of any youth worker who loves teens and really wants to see life-change take place. I’ve had to ban students from youth group before, but I aways do it with a the idea of restoration in mind, just like what Christ did for us with our sin. No kid is kicked out of youth group forever (unless they choose not to come back), there’s always a process or criteria that can be met for them to return (such as apologizing to certain people, meet with me one-on-one for a number of weeks, whatever is appropriate). I always use it as a real-life example of grace of what Christ did for us.

  • tombilderback

    Tim & Chris,
    Great advice, I had already had a talk with him and let him know if he was ready to go by the rules set up that evryone else followed he was more than welcome. I had another new experience this week. It has to do with student leadership. We just finished writing contracts and I am about to start interviews. A sunday school teacher who is close to a student who has been practicing with our youth band knows he is having sex with his girlfriend. Nothing of course was noted on his application about relationship struggles. The trouble is the teacher and this kids parents are close and he found out the dad has encouraged this and he is a part of our adult praise band. The mother has no clue about any of the situation. I wasnt sure if I should just question him during the interview about how God honoring his realtionship is(which I will do with anyone involved) or just tell him I know. How about some wisdom on that. Thanks guys tom

  • Tim

    @ Tom: Talk with your sr. pastor about it and get his/her input. In my opinion, student leaders are students who set an example for the rest of the kids and thereby are held to a higher standard than the rest. If he’s sexually active, then there’s no way he’ll be approved for my student leadership team. But again, talk with your sr. pastor or whoever is your direct supervisor.

  • Scooter

    ok so as I am reading some of these articles I will say there are some amazing information and some crazy information! In our youth group, we have all the kids the other churchs claim to not have Kicked out, but wont accept them back until they have appologized etc. Or kids that have felt NOT accepted by the other church’s. Out kids dont go to church, there parents dont go to church, they are all from single families and are in trouble with the law. Yes we have the best kids ever!!! When we have issues and there are lots. We dont have “rules” we teach them respect and love. IF an issue arrises and they cant work it out, we help them. We allow them to be themselves….clothing has never been an issue least not where its a lack of….and besides…God made us who we are, we are to love each other and build strong relationships….that is what he wanted. What do we teach the kids if we just call the parents…most of our kids…there safety is in y outh nights….not at home. Try working out the “problems” with the kids, treat them like adults, and you will be surprised what becomes of them! I would NEVER trade our kids….they are amazing and I love them just as Jesus loved ME!!

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