Moral Contradictions

Monday, December 11, 2006

Quick Question

As the end of the semester is so close yet so far away, I recently heard a story that troubled me. No this is not for a final nor is this something recent or currently happening as this occurred 10 years ago.

I'm curious as to how you, as a youth minister, would respond if one of your students confided in you that they smoked pot for the first time. This student is fairly active - not as committed as one would like, but at the same time they are there for most activities and Bible studies. The student is facing college and is obviously recognizes that what they did was wrong and is looking for some sort of guidance.

How would you react? What would you tell the student? What is your objective and rationale in its achievement?

I'll post what happened Wednesday afternoon. There is no one right answer but I want to see if there is any consensus or not.

//This is one way to keep this thing going while I'm crazy-busy - have you all do the work while I finish tests!

Update - First of all, thank you Dusty and Mac for your thoughts. I think both situations would work well if done with an obvious dose of love and intention.

What happened: The youth minister's first response was "well, either you tell your parents or I will - which will it be?". The result is that this particular person has not been in church since.

At what point is a youth minister a friend, and at what point are they a parent? Do they need to be a parent? Do parents look for them to act like one because they do not have the time or desire to do so themselves and expect them to be a miracle worker?

Whichever method of handling the situation is chosen, I believe the common foundation is love for the student and respect for them as young adults. Loving and respecting them means that you can counsel to do the right thing, yet recognize that they must make that choice on their own.

Part of the reason I asked this was because I have been struggling with the divisiveness and lack of love within the Christian tradition. The essence of our faith is Christ, and the essence of Christ is love. If we cannot love our own, how can we be an effective representative of Christ to those who do not know that love?

Thanks again for the answers and thoughts. Feel free to blast away at my mini-sermon... :)


  • I am not a youth minister, just an old layman with a bit of experience. I would ask the student if they thought what they did was wrong? (Expecting their answer to be yes) I would remind them that if you think something is wrong, it usually is. I would then tell them that smoking pot is wrong for a number of reasons beginning with it being against the law. I would tell them that regardless of what they had heard from their peers pot smoking has been made unlawful for many reasons beginning with marijuana's effect upon the brain's functioning. I would offer to help them do research on pot as a gateway drug leading to more serious drug use. Lastly I would recommend that they read an out of print book, titled "Keep Off The Grass".
    Mac McFatter

    By Blogger CharlieMac, at Tuesday, December 12, 2006 8:25:00 PM  

  • Thank you Mac - anyone else? I should have said you don't need to be a youth minister, but some of it is common sense...

    By Blogger Nathan, at Tuesday, December 12, 2006 8:43:00 PM  

  • My personal opinion is that to much emphasis on pot being harmful to the body would most likely fall on deaf ears with today's information savvy teens. When I would use that argument with my own children, I always got pretty much the same answer each time. "What ISN'T harmful to out bodies? Is breathing in polluted air a sin? Is eating processed and "enhanced" foods a sin?" So, as true as it that pot is harmful, it just does not score the desired effect as it might have at one time.

    I believe this young person obviously had established a certain amount of trust in the youth minister, and demonstrated maturity by being willing to even bring it up. That being said, I believe that a mature response is required.

    Asking for an explanation of why they made that decision and where were they when it happened and why were they there in the first place, would allow the young person to paint an accurate picture of their lifestyle choices.

    After getting the above information and confirming that they realize what they did was wrong, not so much from the harmful effects perhaps but from realizing that they broke a law and THAT is a sin that cannot be denied no matter how right or wrong they may feel that law is, it would be time to discuss "What do we do now?" There is also the fact of "avoiding the appearance of evil" to be discussed.

    I firmly believe that mature Christians are required to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and that they are to be accountable for their actions. Have they told their parents? If not, why not? Ultimately, the young person would have to make the choice to talk to their parents, hopefully with a minister there to guide the discussion. But, then the hard part. They have already agreed that they broke a law. Now, being sorry and repentent is one thing, but, steping up and taking responsibility for breaking a law is hard to do, but the effect of admitting it to a law official on their own would have the effect of building a deeper understanding of what responsibility and accountability is. Hopefully, this would be a choice made by the young person and their parents and supported by the minister.

    If, as could easily be expected, it was decided not to go before the authorities, I would think a prayer for Guidance would be appropriate and then let the parents do what they think is best.

    But, with all this, it is of the utmost importance that the young person be praised for their sensitivity and encouraged in their walk.

    By Blogger Dusty Bogard, at Wednesday, December 13, 2006 11:19:00 PM  

  • "realizing that they broke a law and THAT is a sin that cannot be denied no matter how right or wrong they may feel that law is"

    I think I would be careful with that one, for the same basic reasoning you point out with the "harmful" issue. It would be pretty easy to say, "Was hiding Jews from the Nazis a sin? Was eating at the 'whites only' Woolworth lunch counter a sin (for the African Americans who did so)? Was helping an accused 'witch' escape death in Salem a sin?"

    By Blogger NewsAce, at Thursday, December 14, 2006 9:44:00 AM  

  • Welllllll.... I surely would not draw a line in the sand over being accountable for our actions. Obviously, the decision has to be the individuals about how to "make it right." But, I think it would not be to difficult to overcome objections like hiding jews or sitting at an all white lunch counter by pointing out the difference between what is civil disobediance based on a faith decision and smoking a joint at a party as civil disobediance. However, if those objections were brought up, I would certainly not be shy about asking if that was their motive for smoking pot or were they just wanting to fit in and have a good time?

    As for your update, it is a sad thing when ministers or anyone else gets so wrapped up in a legalistic position that they are no longer sensitive to the individual. Forcing a response seldom leads to the repentent attitude that we want to see evolve.

    The thing is, we are not in a position to judge. But, given the number of times we do, it's no wonder that the old saying, "The Church is the only Army in the world that shoots it's own wounded." is still true today.

    By Blogger Dusty Bogard, at Thursday, December 14, 2006 3:53:00 PM  

  • I know I'm late, but I would like to comment anyway.

    When the student confided in his youth minister, he was troubled, and unsure how to resolve his thoughts and feelings. Otherwise, he would simply have just moved on in whatever direction he had chosen, at peace with his decision. So, the minister should have restricted himself to asking the questions which would help the student arrive at a self-derived resolution of his feelings, thoughts and actions. For instance, 'How did you feel when you were smoking?' 'Why did you choose to smoke?' 'How did you feel afterward?' 'Is it something you want to do again?' 'If Jesus was sitting here instead of me, what would you want him to say to you right now?' 'What do you think is the right action to take now?'

    This helps him now, and builds great trust for him to seek help from the minister about future problems.

    By Blogger Wolfcat, at Sunday, December 17, 2006 5:05:00 PM  

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