How comfortable are you disciplining kids on a scale of 1-10? Let me tell you a story.
I, Tony Vasinda, Youth Ministry Pro, used to get in trouble at youth events. I know, you’re shocked! Sometimes I was the problem, but most often I was just near the problem. No matter who the source of the issue was, I was always one of the people called out. One time I had enough, I pushed back against my middle school youth minister. “Why did you make ME move? I wasn’t talking! I wasn’t messing with anyone! I was one of the only people who was doing WHAT YOU ASKED!!!” My youth ministers response was, “Because you didn’t stop anyone around you from misbehaving, and Tony”, she said as she pushed her finger into my chest, “you. are. a. leader.” The intention of this statement was noble, but the problem was that she was wrong. I was not a leader. I was a middle school kid with leadership potential that was being punished for not doing what the adults around me were ill equipped to do. I was being asked to discipline middle school youth.
This experience has always set with me as one of the the core events that has formed my temperament as a youth worker. What it taught me was that most adult ministers don’t know how to discipline youth effectively. It sat with me through middle school, into high school, as I started as an intern, and then when I began my 1st staff position at a parish. I would come back to this moment from time to time.
So at my first parish, at my first event, I stood up and I did the thing I wished my youth minister had done. I set up boundaries. They were just simple expectations. I made them up, at least in my mind, on the spot. I still use them, and they have been a huge help to me and ministry leaders I have worked with over the last 15 years.
#1 Openness | Our ministry is open to everyone, and we also ask that everyone who comes is open to the experiences and the people around them. If we are asking your to do something, try something, or talk about something we expect that you will give it a try.
#2 Honesty | We want to share honestly with you, and we ask that you share honestly with us. We want you to be who you are. Who you were made to be, and to ask questions when you have them.
#3 Respect | This covers a lot of what you think of as “The Rules”, but it’s more than just that. We want you to know that you will be respected, and that we expect you to show other and this space that same kind of respect.
These basic expectations give us a solid framework to address issues that come up. It gives us a base line to measure things against. So what happens when a youth, or an adult, violates these expectations? Let’s talk about that next week.