Who Died and Made You Responsible?

Originally published April 15, 2004.

From a letter to the Talkback (Letters to the Editor) column in the January/February, 2004, issue of Group:

"I don't mind comparing my salary package to other youth pastors through the U.S., and it's always good to understand the postmodern generation better, but do those things really help me, as a youth pastor in the field, to deal with the real life problems and issues that I face with my kids?

"When is someone going to have the guts to discuss and provide advice on the issues that every youth pastor faces at one time or another, but no one seems to want to talk about openly? What do you do when your senior pastor's son is having a sexual relationship with a girl in your youth group?

What do you do when kids in your youth group are having sex, make you aware of it, but have no remorse--or even embarrassment--about it? What do you do when you find out that an 18- or 19-year old is having sex with a minor? What about kids that show up for church, but then ‘sneak out' to ‘make out?' What do you do when you find that kids are involved in any illegal activities (drugs, alcohol, theft, etc.)? ...Don't give me a pat answer like ‘get their parents involved' because my response will be: which ‘parents?' Their biological parents, who they may or may not live with? Or maybe their step parents? (I have kids who have several sets of step parents)!... And please don't tell me to do a series on sex or abstinence or morality or any of those things, because I have and do. And they are good preventative measures, but...I don't want preventative stuff; I want crisis info when it does happen. This is the stuff that we all need to know, not just me." -- Anonymous


My response (though unasked for by Group but I've just got to respond):

While these are problems every youth pastor faces from one time or another, who died and made you responsible for them? I didn't know youth pastors were responsible for the health and welfare of minors. I didn't know youth pastors were responsible for the moral decisions of minors.

If your senior pastor requires this of you, ask him if he's responsible for every church member who is co-habitating with someone. Or every church member who married a non-Christian. Or every church member who doesn't tithe 10 percent. If he answers yes to these questions and does require this of you, you need to resign and say in your resignation letter that you weren't hired to be the Holy Spirit.

If your parents require this of you, there could be several problems going on. Why have the parents given up their parental rights to you? They are responsible to the law and before God for the upbringing of their children. If you have a youth who is a habitual truant, are you the one brought into court or is the parent? So it is with every crisis listed in this letter and every crisis you face.

The better question is did the parents give up their parental rights to you because that was the reputation of the youth pastor who preceded you? Did they give them to you because your parents feel inadequate with their parenting skills? Have you aided their inadequate feelings with your strong youth ministry skills? Does your youth ministry have an us vs. them makeup?

If you are requiring this of yourself, why are you the chosen one to do the job of all the parents combined? How highly do you value your youth skills that you are to be the Holy Spirit for all of your youth?

While all of these crises in this letter are tragic, you as the youth pastor are not responsible for the choices the youth make. You cannot swoop in, have the perfect answer for the situation and change it so the youth goes back to loving God with his/her entire heart. The convictor of sins is the Holy Spirit. The forgiver of sins is Jesus Christ. The healer of broken hearts is God the Father. You are the Triune God's representative here on earth. You are called to "pastor." To pastor is to do all of the preventative teachings, to counsel in truth, to expose the lies of Satan that bind our youth, and to pray and pray and pray for the work of the Triune God to be completed in our youth. That is your role. It often brings tears, but when you are called the tears are part of what you are accepting.

Go forth and be God's representative to youth.