Ethics: Would You Call This Youth Leader to Repentance?

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What would you do Wednesday!

Your church has an active youth ministry due in part from reaching out to the many low-income families within a mile of the church. An additional 50-80 kids attend from these families.  The youth are a large part of both Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services.

The downside of this thriving youth ministry is a lack of parental involvement. Some parents are reached through their kids and join the church, but a majority of the youth grow up in the church without their parents.

Now, an issue comes up with one of the youth lay leaders.

One of the youth lay leaders who has been part of the church youth ministry for two years seems to have fallen away. He is now 18 and has been one of the three worship leaders for the youth ministry. He has lead other activities as well in the last two years. His parents are unbelievers and have never been involved in the church.

You discover his possible falling away by accident one day. You come across the young man on social media. Knowing that your own child was part of the youth ministry with this youth, you click on a few of his links out of curiosity. What you find is some lewd comments and pictures.

After asking your own child about him, you are told that he has not been to youth group in the last month. So, you reach out to him via social media at a spur of the moment decision. You ask graciously how he is doing and if everything is okay.

He says he is happier without Christ and is not coming back to church.

Not knowing him well you schedule a meeting with the pastor and youth pastor.  The pastors are not sure if – or really how – they will seek the young man’s repentance since his parents are unbelievers and he finished high school in the next three months.

In the meantime, the pastors implement two new guidelines for the youth ministry. They will take the following guidelines before the church for a vote.

  1. Kids/parents will sign a covenant that is akin to church membership, but without requiring the family join.
  2. Not allow kids whose parents are not formal members of the church to lead youth activities.

What would you do?

  • Vote for the new guidelines and confront the youth.
  • Vote for the new guidelines, but leave the youth alone.
  • Vote against the new guidelines and confront the youth.
  • Vote against the new guidelines, but leave the youth alone.
  • Or…

Here I blog…

Mark

p.s. The above post is based on a true story.

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The above article was posted on September 25, 2013 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 drumorgan September 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Everyone should be “called to repentance”. 
I wouldn’t judge them by the membership status of their parents. But, certainly would hold “leaders” and “members” to a higher standard than “attenders”. If he is unrepentant, he shouldn’t be a leader. But, it sounds like he has removed himself anyway. Not sure what the issue is here.

2 ShawnPaterson September 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Having been a youth leader in a church’s ministry where my parents were not involved I can somewhat relate to this. I am only 21 now, so I will answer these questions as myself (which may be different than if I were perhaps an older church member, etc.)
First, I would further contact the youth in question via social media/email. If he was open to meeting, I would certainly meet at a public location (coffee shop, etc.) I’d ask him what had changed, why he currently believes he is better off, etc. I would share the gospel with him and warn him of the consequences of his actions.
Secondly, I would vote against those guidelines, as far as I understand them right now (which is vague). I believe number one is a good idea, but if the parents are not involved in the church (unbelievers), I would not require them to sign it. I believe number two is a bad idea that could really hinder the development of a young, truly regenerate leader who happens to come from a non-believing family. I know that if my leadership opportunities were restricted based upon my parent’s faith I would not be on the path I am on today. Currently I am completing my undergraduate degree in Intercultural Studies (World Missions), and plan on being a missionary in the Middle East. 
Ultimately, I don’t completely understand the purpose of the two guidelines. If the youth leader has left the church, there is a good chance he was never regenerate and needs to be called to repentance unto salvation. Suppose guideline number two was set in place. Would current youth leaders without saved parents be asked to step down? Suppose guideline number two didn’t exist but number one was in place and signed by the youth leader in question. The youth leader would probably break the covenant and nothing would be different other than the church can point back to it while questioning the youth. Ultimately though, him signing that covenant does not change the fact that he is possibly unregenerate.

3 rhology September 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm

ShawnPaterson said what I was going to say. 
I would only seek a meeting with the fallen away youth if I loved him.

4 bartbarber September 25, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Against. Confront.
We come to Christ as individuals, not as subordinates of our parents.

5 James Ellis September 25, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Was the young man in question a confessing baptized believer? Often kids attach themselves to a church and even become leaders in it without ever making a confession of faith or joining the church. I have seen Youth groups and churches use non members and sometimes non believers in service roles because they are doing ministry programs they are not equipped for.
Yes by all means fo after the young man. But also make sure you always have people who profess their calling from God in leadership positions. And don’t do ministry God has not equipped your church to do.

6 Mark Lamprecht September 25, 2013 at 10:50 pm

@James Ellis Yes, we assume the young man a baptized believer. I agree with you that he should be called to repentance. Interestingly enough, I think many youth ministries allow some of the youth to participate in some sort of leadership though it is not necessarily formal. (I’m not saying they should.)

7 Mark Lamprecht September 25, 2013 at 10:50 pm

bartbarber Yep, thanks Bart.

8 Mark Lamprecht September 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm

drumorgan I think the issue is, as with all of these ethics situations, it is easier to make decisions from the outside looking in. Some churches may not have a healthy, full-view of Scriptural repentance and accountability. So, I hope this venue provides encouragement and iron sharpening.

9 Mark Lamprecht September 25, 2013 at 11:00 pm

ShawnPaterson Thanks for your perspective, Shawn. Some may argue that allowing folks who aren’t formally church members lead various activities takes away some of the serious aspects and accountability of what it means to be part of a local body. You could end up with people are become part of a youth group just so they can play guitar and lead worship, for example. It could give them the wrong view of why they are there. I’m not sure it is necessary to have the parents sign a covenant, but the youth should have some idea of what he is professing. 
Some of the approach has to do with whether or not youth group is an evangelistic group or has a purpose of worshiping God as believers. Also, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, but offering another perspective.

10 ShawnPaterson September 26, 2013 at 9:15 am

Mark Lamprecht ShawnPaterson Thanks for the reply, Mark! After putting more thought into it, I agree that allowing those who aren’t church members lead does indeed take away very important aspects of what it means to be a part of a local church. Your example of people becoming a part of the youth group just to play an instrument is a very true thing. I church that I recently (unfortunately) parted ways with, has allowed a former youth group member (who is now my age), lead worship during some their contemporary services. And other times he is in the band. Problem: he lives in a lifestyle of sin (girls, alcohol, drugs, etc.). And what is worst is that he is probably considered a member because he completed confirmation class in eighth grade. As you can see, this church has a few things backwards and eventually as I matured and began to realize it, I thankfully found a healthier and more biblical church to fellowship and serve with. 
I like your last statement about if the youth group is evangelistic or has a purpose of worshiping God with believers. There definitely is a difference in dynamic, although I’ve never been able to fully understand how that plays out. For instance, I would say that Sunday morning services are for the body of believers to worship God and hear from his word. Yet, there will be unbelievers that have walked in, or who are invited. Praise God! But that doesn’t mean we should change the service to cater to them (less singing, less in depth sermons, etc.). If we do, I suppose that would be called “seeker-sensitive” and I’ve seen what a disaster that can be for God’s people. 
I think for youth groups, even if there is a strong evangelistic emphasis, the leaders should still be those who have professed faith in Christ, have a lifestyle that corresponds with their profession, and are church members (or whatever the youth version of church membership would be). 
I hope these thoughts make sense, I sort of wrote as I contemplated the ideas in my head.

11 nvahalik September 28, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Ultimately, I think I’d vote against and confront (or at least encourage those who knew him to reach out to him) with the understanding that the trust we have as believers with fellow believers has been broken.  Anyone in that situation  should be treated as someone outside the church.  I think a concern I have is how his absence is explained.  At what point do you tell (or not tell) a group of kids that someone that used to be there isn’t there and has renounced his faith?
I think there is a point at which even if you are not a member you’re sort of a “common law member” of a church.  This is why I think Matthew 18 should still apply even if you’re not formally a member.  I think you could both explain to people why he isn’t there as well as encourage others to pray for anyone who isn’t coming without needing to go into much detail.  Wouldn’t you want other youth in the group to be aware of this and to take appropriate action?
On further thinking, perhaps it would be wise to link kids at the church to sponsors.  This gives them a responsible member-family who cares for them and work with them and could even witness to their family.  That way a family inside the church could handle them as they would their own child.

12 072591 October 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I’ll answer the easy part first. Leave the kid alone. He has made a profession of not being a Christian; rules regarding reconciliation do not apply. He should be called to repent before Jesus Christ for salvation, but he is no longer sinning against the church.
As for the first part, particularly requiring the leaders of youth activities to have parents be members, I would actually support this for reasons unrelated to this incident. A child is still under the authority of his parents. If the parents are unsaved, how much could the child really lead others, since he is under the authority of those who oppose the very cause he seeks to lead? Even if the parents don’t actively oppose his efforts, the fact remains that they are a strong influence.

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