In July of 2012 a young man was asked not to participate in his church’s youth programs. According to the letter written by the boy’s father, the young man was not hurting any other students in the group nor was he damaging church property. The self-described “non-conformist” family no longer fit in with the new model for youth ministry that the congregation was pursuing.
Here is part of the father’s response:
“Your son is messing up Sunday School for all the normal children. Something has to be done.” On the day of the pronouncement, the Father of the Quirky Family was trying to figure out how to not to run screaming in fear from all the broken-ness in himself and the rest of the Quirky Family. The last thing he needed was a new problem that needed to be monitored and managed.
So the Five Dimensional Son was no longer welcome in Sunday School. He grows up from pre-teen to adult never stepping inside church again. This church just had no way to be a good place for the Quirky Family under stress, it could not offer itself as a safe place, it needed to be safe for the together people, a place that accomplishes goals, more than it needed to be a safe place for the strange people.
This young man, as admitted by his father, was distracting but does this constitute banning him from future youth activities? Does this behavior constitute shunning the young man and his family for youth ministry within this congregation? What message does this send to other students in the group: shape up or ship out?
Beyond the obvious UMC taglines, “open hearts, open doors…” what are the underlying issues here? Theologically there are some issues. Jesus welcomed all to come to him. Jesus reached out to those who were outcasts from their communities. Jesus healed those people that the temple priests refused to minister to.
Implications For Youth Ministry
In this case, did the part-time volunteer do the right thing? Personally, if the student does not want to be a part of the group, and is disruptive (while not physically hurting anyone), the student probably should reevaluate their participation in the group. This is where parents and volunteers or staff can step in a mediate the situation before it escalates to banning the student from a church activity. I’m sure that when I was in youth group as a kid I was disruptive and asked to leave the group for the evening but I was not removed from the group indefinitely. If the same approach had been taken in this example I might not have found this story on multiple blogs.
It is important to remember that in this case we are only reading one account of the story. Which is another implication for youth ministry. When a breakdown occurs or a situation arises we must look at all angles of the situation before making a decision. It seems in this case the youth worker was on the defensive and not taking proactive steps to mediate the situation.
You can read the father’s letter here: http://toyblog.typepad.com/lemon/2012/07/the-day-they-kicked-my-son-out-of-sunday-school.html