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    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Dealing with Conflict in Youth Ministry

    Sometimes in ministry we have things that pop up and those things cause conflicts.  I for one HATE conflicts and sadly I try to avoid them as best I can...yet they still happen.

      How do we handle this tension, especially with parents?  How do we bring up things in the lives of their kids that we know they are completely ignorant of?

      This was a question I had early on in ministry, back when Myspace was new and Facebook was only for college students. Myspace was home to much teenage craziness much like Facebook has today.  However, with Myspace it seems there is more freedom to display ...body parts? more so than with Facebook and some of my teens took advantage of this "freedom".

      One such student was a young, beautiful girl who was also an elders daughter.  She displayed some body parts that should remain hidden and teased as if she were to reveal more.  When my wife showed me the pictures, I was shocked that a young lady from the home in which she came could in fact take this step.  I wrestled for days as to how I would approach it.  Finally I took the young lady aside and shared with her that these pictures were not sending the right picture as to who she is.

      She of course could care less what I had to say and asked why I was "creepin on her page and looking at them (the pics) anyways."  I said "You're a friend of mine on Myspace and I was just browsing through your profile when I came across those pictures."  I then asked her to take them down or I would speak to her father about the pictures.

      Sadly, she didn't heed my advice and conflict was in my near future.  How do you bring something like this up?  How do you deal with this type of conflict...especially with an elder and his child?

      Eventually I grew a pair and one Sunday went over to the elder and shared with him the situation.  He of course was shocked, appalled and disappointed in his daughter.  We set up a meeting for directly after church so he could see the pictures for himself and make a better judgment.  When I was talking with him  his daughter saw and knew what was up.  She raced home after church and deleted the worst of the pictures...which I feared would spark more conflict with her father.

      Once we got to my office, I opened up my computer and went to her Myspace page and sure enough, most of the raunchy photos were gone.  However, some were left that her father was definitely not happy about.  We discussed what may have brought these things about and how we can help his daughter through this process.

      We eventually teamed up to share with her that the message she is displaying is one of a sexual being, rather than a human being.  She was advertising herself as an open, easy sexual target and in the climate of the current culture, this was a dangerous ad to be putting up for sure.  In the end, I think the message sunk in and the young lady took it to heart and eventually realized I wasn't out to "ruin her life" but that I cared enough to speak up on a potentially dangerous situation.

      This story is one that always comes to mind when I hear the words: "Conflict in ministry" because it, for me was a difficult hurdle to jump over in my second year as a youth pastor.  It could've gone much worse, the elder could've been in denial and charged me as a pervert for looking at pictures.  The daughter could've deleted all of the photos and the elder could've called me a liar.  Many scenarios "could've happened" but by the grace of God, the right scenario is what happened.

      Conflict is hard to deal with.  Sometimes its off to the side and other times it is in your face.  My theory now is to simply do what God asks of me in every and all situations.  Even though it hindered my relationship with that young lady for a time, I would do it again because I care to much for her as a person.  I care much more for her Spiritual, emotional and physical well being than I do for our "friendship".

      I love what I do, but sometimes the conflicts get huge and's then I turn to a youth pastor friend to lean on, get encouragement from and pray with. 

    God has called us to this mission and we must be faithful to that calling, even through and in conflicts.  Lean on your support systems of friends and the Lord and He will guide you in all truth through His Holy Spirit (John 16:13).  Don't be afraid to face conflicts (speaking to myself here!) because its through conflicts that we and others grow...just make sure the Holy Spirit is in it...because if He's not...the wrong scenarios is 100% guaranteed to play out.


    1. As a parent, I'm thankful for youth leaders like you who have the courage to bring something to my attention - even if it is unflattering to my child or potentially could cause conflict. I trust you guys to be my eyes and ears in a season of life where my kids are more influenced by what goes on outside our home. And I'm thankful that they have people like you to look up to, who care about them enough to know when to interfere.

    2. I definately can understand this post. My situation didn't turn out so nicely. When I approached the issue, the parents got angry, started a rebellion and decided to ruin my reputation claiming I was misusing the internet and "posting inappropriate things." It was saddening to me that parents can sometimes be in such denial with things as simple as their child talking in service in the front row, that they become destructive. Pride is a terrible thing.

      I pray that people somehow were able to address the serious issues that were going on in that youth group. When it comes down to it, if you don't have the respect of the parents/adults/teens you work with, they will not listen and you will inevitably be hurt.

      If I had to do it all over again, indeed I would, but I just wish that it wasn't so hard sometimes.