WARNING: Rebecca D. shows flagrant disregard for the rules of punctuation... She uses ellipsis with wild abandon... Punctuation interventions have been done to no avail... If you are offended by such irreverence to the rules of grammar... The very glue that holds our society together... STOP READING NOW... Move on... There is a little button at the top that says "next blog"... You would be well advised to use it... You were warned...

What Would You Do... With 53 Days to go...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Today I need lots of advice... I had a lot of help from everyone when I asked last time, so here goes on various subjects...
1. RSVPs are the bane of my existence... I don't know why, but a lot of people just don't RSVP these days. It seems like people only let you know if they are coming, but rarely let you know when they aren't. And even that seems to be hit or miss. The shower was nearly impossible to get RSVPs back for. The problem arises with the wedding. As discussed before, our venue holds 175 people. We go to a church that has about 175 people, no problem you say? Not so fast, when you deduct for our family and friends, and the grooms family and friends that leaves room for about 70-80 church family. That didn't seem like a problem at the time; because there are fewer then that many people we thought we felt close to...It turns out when you are in ministry in a church, a lot of people feel close to you. Yes, we know just about everyone, but we didn't feel close to everyone... We now know we will need to book a bigger venue for Allison's wedding, but we can't do anything about the size now... As a result we were forced to create a "B List"... You know, the list of people we will invite when we start to get declined RSVPs in the mail... We have invited 169 people currently and have heard from 67 (64 yes, 3 declines) so far. We got a lot of the RSVPs in the first week after the invites went out, but they have dried to a trickle... I included a self-addressed, stamped envelope to ease the process, yet there are still so many lingering out there... I don't dare take people on their verbal RSVPs because so far I have had a couple tell me they can't go then RSVP yes... When I called to clarify they said the weekend in question opened up for them. I know that it might take people who have to travel longer to commit, since they need to look at travel, but do you think it would be tacky to call or chat with in person local people to see if they plan to come? I don't want to put people on the spot, but... What would you do?

2. Parents... When asked what the hardest part of student ministry is the answer is hands down, dealing with the parents... I know everyone knows what is best for their particular kids but we can't tailor the entire youth group around each family individual needs... It would be totally nuts to try... I feel like all of a sudden we are being bombarded by (well-meaning but) pushy parents...

First parent issue: Our youth group is for 13- college age. We had to define it by grade to make when they can start coming less crazy so before we were in charge it was decided 8th grade and up... Then just before we came they decided they would let in 7th grade on a kid by kid basis with the parents being fully aware that they may be asked to step out if they are not ready maturity wise at any time. That means on any given week we have "kids" from 12-21 in attendance... We do most things together as a group, worship, games, announcements, etc., but for the lesson we divide up into 7th - 9th grades and 10th and up... (and in the summer when we have more college age kids home we will do a separate study for them.) This is something new we started to meet the needs of the most kids... When we were all together for the lesson you have to "aim the lesson at the middle" meaning the oldest and youngest members were being left behind. Now, what if you think your 8th grade son is particularly "gifted" and wants him with the older kids? What if you are absolutely convinced of this? What if the youth leaders don't agree with you? And even if they did, made the decision to stick to the age parameters to keep other younger kids from wanting to do the same thing, putting everyone back where they started? Do you as the parent get mad? Do you go "over their heads" to the pastor and then the church leadership? Do you become the proverbial squeaky wheel? Now put yourself in our shoes? Do you back down to keep peace even though you know it's the wrong choice for the youth in question and the group as a whole? Do you think it is necessary to sit down with these parents more than once to explain your view? What would you do?

Second Parent issue: You are the youth leaders of a primarily male youth group. On any given week you have about 12-15 guys and 2-4 girls... One of the guys in your group comes from a single parent home that decided the best way to keep their oldest son from "dating" was to tell him at 14 that he had to be 16 to "date"... Now the boy just turned 16 and you, his mom are freaking out. You decide that the reason he wants to "date" so bad is because 2 of the 4 girls in the youth group are dating guys in the youth group (or in Allison's case, engaged to) and not because he is a normal, healthy, good looking 16 year old who has had a crush on one girl in particular for over a year. (And fortunately she happens to be a Christian too.) How do you deal with this mom who has decided to organize "outside" activities to go to and only invite the guys from youth group to attend? These are activities that we would happily do as a group, but for one reason or another we didn't find out about in time. How would you feel as a youth leader to find out either just before of just after the fact that one parent has in the past few months planned several things that 4/5 of your youth are invited to but you are never informed in advance and the girls are primarily the only ones excluded? She regularly has stuff at her home for "just the guys" but the activities she has organized (without our knowledge) are generally co-ed events when they get there, so it seems fruitless to exclude the few girls we do have and it does bother my husband and I that there is a parent out there for all intents and purposes planning youth group activities outside of the student ministry the excludes and not includes the girls (and a few of the guys who have sisters). Another issue is that this is a single mom doing this... If she wants "guy only" events doesn't it make sense to ask the male youth leader to plan these? (By the way, Paul does do some guy only stuff with them.) One of the guys from youth decided to confront this mom and ask her if they could include the girls and she told him she didn't want the girls coming to things she organizes specifically, which is why she doesn't go through us? What do you do?

Third parent issue: There are a few boys in the youth group who play the "Magic the gathering" card game. We have decided to be neutral about this. Do we approve and would we let our kids play? I don't know, but Paul looked into it and decided we have much larger fish to fry. We live in a part of the country where the majority of people do not go to church and I will even go one step further to say that most people here are either openly anti-Christian or apathetic towards us. Only about 1/3 of our kids and their parents go to our church and of the other 2/3rd a few go to other churches and most of the rest are the only member of their family going to church, at all. The high school age kids can name all the other Christians in their entire school. There are very few (less than 10%) and quite frankly, this card game is the least of our worries. We fight hard not to, but do "lose" kids to the "partying" crowd with some frequency and rarely win them back... Paul has decided to let the Holy Spirit do the convicting when it comes to this card game. We don't let them play the game at youth (not that they have asked) and if they have their cards with them we use the same rule we use for cell phones, and hand-held video games, put away during youth time. These boys go to a little shop in town that sells the cards and comic books and play "tournaments" once a month and have invited several of the kids they have met there to youth and a couple come regularly now... Here is the problem... One parent sees these cards as evil and not only wants them banned from youth but wants us to publicly take a stand against them. Paul said "no" and that we are trying to reach these kids not shut them out. This is the same parent who finds fault with any movie we decide to show and complained to the pastor that we serve too much junk food and allow too much "rough-housing" at youth... (Do I approve of these cards? No... I really don't. I personally think they are possibly somewhat occultic in nature and would not encourage my child play them.) Do you think we should take a stand on them or is it splitting (legalistic) hairs when the salvation of these kids and then protecting them from the sex and partying that is such an accessible part of their daily lives? What would you do?

So what is your advice? (I'll remember I asked.)

Thanks for listening,
rebecca d

PS... My husband has already made a call on all the above "parent issues" although they are not resolved since they all came up in the past week or so... I would just really like to hear where a wide range of people stand on these issues to see if we are on the right track... I will share the resolutions as we come to them in a later post.


  1. What is your cutoff for the rsvp? It still seems like there is time for people to return their cards and I know a lot of people won't but many will wait until the day before your rsvp date. I'd likely wait until a couple days after the cutoff to start scrambling : ) You will likely have to assume people are a yes if they don't respond so you have enough food and seats. It is annoying, not to mention rude.

    I personally don't think 8th graders and high school Jrs. and Srs. should be in the same mix. Is there a way to combine just 8th and 9th grade only? From a maturation standpoint 8th graders are (usually) way beyond that of a 7th grader, particularly at year's end. We used to keep ours with the Jr. High kids until the last month of school and then 8th grade could begin coming to the high school stuff. Could you put 10-11-12 together, maybe do some combined worship with the 8-9 but separate out for discussions? No matter how mature your 8th grader is there is a world of difference between the two age groups and I think it inhibits the older kids sharing too. That is my .02

    I think its fine to have some guy only/girl only stuff. I am not sure if you are feeling like there is some other reason behind her organizing these types of things but in general I think it's good to have some guy only/girl only events. I like a combination of single sex and co-ed events and get togethers for high school kids. There are things girls will not say in the presence of a boy for a multitude of reasons. I think the opposite is also true.

    The Magic game. I don't know it but I am quite leery of anything that opens the door to the occult. My girls say I'm a little over the top in this department but it is an area I felt the Lord speaking to me about as my girls were growing up. That being said, your hubs is probably right in that there are bigger fish. Perhaps down the road there will be an opportunity to have some open dialogue on this topic. In the meantime I'd try to learn something about the game so you're up to speed should the opportunity arise. Definitely an area I'd commit to prayer as a parent and/or youth leader. Kids don't always see the potential dangers in something they view as 'just a game' or 'just a movie', etc.

    I hope this isn't too blunt...I'm heading out the door but I sensed you wanted some opinions so here are mine : )

  2. Joyce's advice sounds reasonable. Don't worry til the day your RSVP date has passed, then start fishing around.

    Youth group... A rule is a rule. I am raising a toddler and see how this is more and more important to stick to. A parent can learn to be patient too. Ages 12 to 21 is extremely expansive as it is. You could have one with a baby and others not even through puberty!!
    How many months will the youngster have to wait? Twelve? It's not a lifetime. However, if you would like to demonstrate that you are reasonable, you could "make a deal" and say no right now, but then say let's take a look at it in so many months or whatever. Or maybe have some hoops they have to jump through to clearly demonstrate they are ready. Then see how motivated they are. In the end the parent will have to understand everything is not about their child, you are looking out for the group as a whole.

    Issue #2 She does have a right to organize social activities for her son, weird as they sound. Since she is not inviting the group as a whole I don't think there is a lot you can do about it. I would make sure everyone is clear that they are NOT youth group sponsored events. It may blow over. If the boy wants to badly enough, he will find other ways of seeing this young woman that mommy does not know about.

    Issue #3 Hmmm... toughy. Have you talked to your pastor about it? This may be an issue that he wold be interested in knowing about since whatever "stand" you take will represent your church. I agree with your thinking and Joyce's. I do think occult-ish stuff can open doors. However, what you say about bigger fish sounds like it is keeping the main thing the main thing. I think the more important thing would be to get the students to think about it for themselves instead of making a stand. You can't MAKE someone have a conviction about something so it doesn't seem like it would be helpful anyway. Junk food? She can bring a veggie tray next time :) Rough housing? How many boys did you say you have? I once had the opportunity to observe a "guy's pad". Out of nowhere there would be wrestling matches in the living room or guys chasing each other through the house with no shirt on....

    P.S. That is awesome that you have so many young men in youth group. I think it is usually the opposite problem. What a great opportunity to make a difference in your community, after all those boys will be husbands, fathers and leaders in their (your daughters') home one day.

    P.P.S. You are brave to ask advice!!

  3. I'm sorry the wedding has turned in to such a hassle for you. I have no advice just my sympathy.
    As far as the youth group, I just hope you don't get discouraged and drop out. My youth group was an important part of my growing up and the leaders were very special to me. Still are, in fact, if only in memory. Try to be as inclusive as you can and still function. I imagine Jesus often had people wanting to join his band of disciples but there was no mention of that ever happening. The mom planning activities isn't trying to compete with you. You can't meet everyone's needs and set the rules for them all. Be their friend and point them to Jesus. You and your husband are heroes to these kids. You may even be life changers for some of them. Keep up the good work and allow God to do his.

  4. Wow. You must feel like you're walking on egg shells all over the place!

    Since you asked...

    Regarding RSVP's, I know it's not culturally acceptable, but I always wished I could put a date on them, and say something like, "If we haven't heard from you by _______ we'll assume you're not coming." And then put place cards with everyone's name (who RSVP'd) at the tables, effectively excluding those who just show up without the courtesy of an RSVP. But, I'm sure I wouldn't be very popular!

    Still, maybe the cutoff date would work? I don't think there's anything wrong with calling those people and asking for a commitment, one way or the other. Maybe you could find someone to do it for you! Your guests/friends might take it easier from a neutral party? "Hi, I'm Rebecca's assistant wedding coordinator. I'm helping plan the reception and to make our guests welcome, we need to know by (date) who can or can't make it..."

    Frankly, if people get offended it's probably because they realize that THEY are the ones not following through on the culturally accepted practice (RSVP) and they're ashamed.

    Sure, you'll get a couple who honestly need time to work out a schedule conflict, or whatever. But hopefully you could clear up most of them.

    More next...

  5. ...

    The whole youth-group situation is more fraught with trouble, from my perspective. Does the church have a good, solid elder-board? Is there an elder appointed to be the liason (sp?) with you about the youth group? My two-cents is that you need to be "backed up" by your church leadership. So, in my humble opinion, issue by issue...

    1. With the leadership backing you up, there needs to be clarification of who is included, and it needs to be objective, rather than subjective. Like "Ages 13-21" or "Grade 7 through college". Whatever they decide. And not make exceptions for the "gifted". Good grief. This isn't an AP class, y'know? Ask someone from the church leadership (elder, pastor, someone) to help you out, here.

    The problem is, that's a huge spread in maturity and issues. Breaking the group up by age for the Bible study is helpful. And, again, making it an objective, rather than subjective division should relieve some of the conflict.

    Although, to tell you the truth, I have a less conventional attitude about youth groups. Don't know what your church has going in the way of men's or women's ministries, but I would tend toward steering the college-age crowd toward the adults. They ought to be hanging out with "older men" and "older women" who are guiding them into their adult roles. It would be great to have some discipleship going on in that direction. Especially once they get married - then they "age out". Not to exclude them from FUN(!) but to celebrate their new stage of life :D

    2. This mom is being divisive. Again, talk with the Pastor/board and get their help. She's a single mom. She needs some adult-male-role-model help with her son. And you need her not competing with the youth group. Yes, it's a good idea to have some separate activities/studies divided by male/female, but she's being divisive.

    We all know that God put those desires (for the opposite sex) into our hearts, and that they're a good thing. But the youth group shouldn't be focused on those relationships. And it can easily degenerate to that. At youth group, they are brothers and sisters.

    Plus, and I want to say this gently and kindly, it's not your job as the youth leaders to "referee" that, between the kids (or the parents). No matter how well-intended you are, that's intruding on the parents' domain. I don't mean that you can't be role models in that area, and help the kids develop healthy godly standards, just that it's a difficult line to walk. So, PUNT, sister, PUNT!

    3. I think Paul has made the right call, regarding the card game. Deal with the greater Biblical issue of purity and holiness (not just sexually, but in all areas of life - "In all your ways acknowledge Him... that ALL is pretty huge!) and let the Spirit work in their hearts regarding the card game. Hey, maybe they'll ask you directly, and then shoot straight.

    But again (and I may sound like a squeaky wheel) get the Pastor/board to help you deal with the contentious parent.

    Other issues - if I had just a few girls in a large group like that, I would go out of my way to build them up and disciple them. Maybe start a before-school 'doughnuts and discipleship' group or something. God forbid they start feeling like bait in a shark-tank, being so few girls and all those hormonal boys! Build them up in their role as godly young women. They are precious!

    So there. Have I been bossy enough? You did ask... ;D Wish we were doing this at a coffee shop, or over nachos instead of digitally!

    God be with you, as you walk through difficult situations,


  6. #1 Stick to your rule about age and grade. I personally don't want my older child in a group with younger children. She could influence them is a way she had no clue she was doing and then the parents would be mad at her. Beside if you change this rule you won't be very "consistent looking" to the other kids and consistency is important.

    #2 That woman has too many issues. I'd just make a statement to all the parents that any gathering she has is not sanctioned by the youth ministry and to send their children at their own risk. (Only say it nicer and not scary.)

    #3 There is a small step between Godly and Evil and it usually starts with accepting that first "little thing." I don't want to give any advice/opinion on this because this is an area I'd hate to steer anyone wrong...I don't want to be accountable for it either. BUT I will pray about it...and all the rest.

    (((HUGS and PRAYERs)))

  7. My husband is a youth pastor, and I feel you. I say stick to the age parameters. Giftedness does not equal maturity. Even if it did, you have to consider the older kids in the group. They would probably not be comfortable opening up about struggles, temptations, etc with a young kid gawping at them.
    I agree with Wonderfully Sew Knit about #2. Ugh. But how do you control what people do outside the church?
    And #3. I think I'm with you about remaining neutral. There are so many things that kids get into, how do you pick one to come against. I personally would pray that God give me the opportunity to share my heart on the issue with the kid, one on one. In other words, when/if they ask me what I think.
    Being there for the kids is clearly your passion. I'm grateful for what you're doing. Keep up the good fight!

  8. Best of luck on all those issues. I have nothing to add to the wise words of the previous commenters!

  9. Looks like you have gotten lots of good advice regarding the youth group issues you are having.

    Regarding the wedding RSVPs, I like of getting a friend to be your "assistant" and calling the people who haven't responded. They may not realize that importance of a reply and are just assuming you know they are coming or not coming.


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