~Joel’s Blog

Boundaries Are Like Guardrails

Yesterday we looked at expectations, generally, and how they influence our role in ministry. Today, in part 2, we look at specific areas where those expectations can clash with reality.

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It is probably true that a great many people doing youth ministry today didn’t have such a great experience in their own adoles­cence. It has been theorized that quite likely most of the people in any helping profession are there, at least in part, to right some of the wrongs they experienced in their youth. They want to help others through a rough spot. Youth ministers are there to help adolescents and preadolescents through a very rough period of life. They want to help. This is certainly a worthy profession and a worthy reason for engaging in it. But it has more than its fair share of snares and pitfalls, precisely because of the motivation for doing ministry and the target audience involved.

Boundaries are Also Like Bowling Alley Bumpers

Often times the youth minister is not much older than the kids she is charged to love and care for. The rationale for this approach by congregations that call young people to minister to their kids is that the young youth minister will have the necessary energy to go the distance with the kids and that he will be able to “speak the language.” While this may be true, it is probable that the younger the youth minister is the less life experience this person will bring to their ministry, and the more likely it is that they will be serving a short time. The reason for this is that there are few boundaries that exist in church work. The young, or new, youth minister will not know this and is at high risk for getting creamed. Their “thorn in the flesh” might be:

  1. an adult member with outrageous expectations
  2. a staff colleague with strong ego needs for control
  3. a kid with little ability to distinguish between Love and love
  4. a parent, fearing they have failed, projecting their angst at them
  5. a ministry peer threatened by someone else’s success(es)
  6. their own unexamined expectation

Tomorrow we’ll examine a realistic perspective for expectations…and what healthy boundaries feel like.

(The content of this blog comes from my book The Ultimate Survival Guide For Youth Ministers; Maintaining Boundaries in Youth Ministry. You can preview it on this Amazon page.)

Have you experienced any of these 6 pain-points? How did you handle them? In what ways did you grow?

Engage here. [Go here for the 3rd and final post on boundaries]


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