Recently I overheard a conversation (more of an argument) between a mother and teen daughter in the ticket line at the movies. The daughter was trying to convince the Mom to take her to an “R” rated movie. Mom responded with, “Christians don’t watch movies like that.”

This got me thinking about the “do’s, don’ts and didn’ts of our Christiandom. Don’t wear THAT, do wear this. Don’t watch THAT television show, read THAT book, watch THAT movie, listen to THAT music. Why didn’t you love that youtube clip, I mean Gene Simmons was sticking up for Tim Tebow. We are constantly navigating these choppy waters of how to know what is “right” and “wrong” when the Bible does not contain the the words, “television, movies or social media” anywhere.

This idea multiplies in ministry and blows up in youth min. Teens are at a stage of “identity formation.” This means that everything they consume is important to them: trends, fashion, media, culture; it all matters. Here comes the youth min. department. We are attempting to show our students what it means to really belong to Jesus; to allow Him to be in total control of your life. There are lots of conversations with them about knowing trees by their fruit. They respond with confused looks and jokes about being an “apple tree.” The phrase “in the world but not of it,” is thrown around often.

Knowing that not “all” of our students care about these conversations we put together contracts, covenants, handbooks and rules for them to follow. Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE advocate for consistency in our programs, especially when it comes to expectations. It keeps us away from allowing short shorts either on the uchurched kid because, “they don’t know better,” or from allowing the “good” student to wear them because they are “pure” and it’s “just the style.”

The problem is we can wield our, “Do’s, Don’ts and Didn’ts” like a light saber. I remember a shy student who would come every week and sit in the corner at youth group. During our “hang out time” she would read a book so she didn’t have to engage. A team member walked up to her one night and I was really excited they were going to get to know her better. Instead the first words out of their mouths were, “Don’t read that book, it’s basically teen porn, and it’s bad for you.” Maybe she shouldn’t have been reading the book, however, that statement, handled that way, just made her not come back.

So we have to ask:

Do we want students to merely modify their behavior or are we looking for them to have a transformed world view?

If we just want them to only change the way they act then a checklist of rules is wonderful. Yet, if we are looking for them to truly be transformed in how they interact with the world that is a different story. When they understand the love of Christ, and are in love with Him then they WANT to glorify Him. That means our approach to standards is drastically different. One just says do and don’t and didn’t.

The other takes a student aside, looks them in the eye and asks them why they make decisions, and if they understand consequences.

Then we ask:

Do we set rules or boundaries?

Rules create a “line in the sand” mentality that too many of us “Believers” can have. I “Don’t” do THAT, but I will see what I can get away with. It’s the attitude that says:

The Bible says, “Don’t get drunk, but it doesn’t say anything about being a little tipsy.”

The issue isn’t about alcohol or no alcohol. The issue is with thinking, “How close to being drunk can I get without actually getting drunk.” Many of us stand here on all sorts of things we justify. We all do it with things we listen to, watch or do and feel like we shouldn’t.

Boundaries on the other hand create safety. It’s putting a fence around your backyard so your child knows the safety zone where you can keep an eye on them. Are we setting up systems in our ministries that allow students to know we want them “safe.” I like this method because its the way I believe God approaches us. It isn’t really that He is trying to be a “fun crusher,” he knows that while “everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial.” He’s protecting us and we trust Him.

This idea is a lifelong one for all of us. In youth ministry we really need to “beware” as we engage the really popular debates which today happen to include modesty, deporting Justin Bieber out of America and the now legal recreational marijuana in some states. Yesterday, it was whether we could still watch Duck Dynasty and Paranormal Movies. Tomorrow it will probably be whether or not we should watch the Oscars this week or who knows.

Be aware of when you simply say- DO – DON’T And DIDN’T

What are your thoughts on this topic?

(BTW if you like this idea, look for a training on the main site coming very soon.)