This morning on the Today show they were talking about the suicide of the girl up in South Hadley Massachusetts. It is believed that the girl committed suicide because of extensive bullying mixed with a background of emotional instability. Either way the story is sad. It made me think about the students in my ministry, made me think what are we doing to reach out to them and then it made me think of my own behavior and whether or not I fuel or fight the bullying culture.
I am a prankster, I am a jokester, I know there are times when my jokes have gone too far. As youth workers we can joke around with students, we want to have fun with students; however, we need to be careful that we don’t go too far. Instead we should create a culture where bullying is bullied out.
- Make Ministry About Relationships – If you are program focused and not relationship focus, the students become numbers. Numbers are important, but if you can know each one, then they become more than that. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7 This can’t be done on our own, that’s why having ministers is important, a 1:2 ratio in ministry is far better than 1:15.
- Get To Know Parents – You could have the most dynamic ministry in the world, but it’ll always fall short if you aren’t plugging in with parents. This is probably my biggest struggle because I have been intimidated by parents. But when you get to know the parent you get to know what the student deals with in more than just one environment.
- Set Expectations – Whether it’s zero tolerance or a three strike rule, put the pressure on your student leaders to combat bullying. Facebook is becoming a disappointment for me because I’m seeing some of our student leaders engage in some bullying activity. I know we don’t want to lose those students that lead worship, work with students and help out in the community, but they need to know that Christ never tolerated bullying and neither should they.
- Being Humble – If you as a leader know that you struggle with sarcasm and going too far, find accountability. Whether it’s from leaders or staff or even students, tell them they have the floor to call you out (in private) when you’ve gone too far with a joke. And then when they do, eat the humble pie. If there is bullying in a youth group, the first place to look is leadership.
Our churches need to be dangerous; however, they should be loving at the same time. We want to push out the bullying culture in our ministries so that students know that even if the world seems like an impossible place to live that they will always have Christ. How else can we battle the bullying?