In the 13 years I’ve been involved in youth ministry, I’ve found that having clear expectations for my students and staff have proved to be invaluable. Having those expectations set out in a clear, easy to remember way is even better. With church attendance continuing to be sporadic at best, and everything in the world competing for our students’ time, thoughts, and energy, these 3 rules have helped shape what we do. They’re by no means exhaustive, but have provided a number of opportunities to build on our overall mission to help students become more like Christ.
What’s been helpful is that I can use these rules on trips, Sunday mornings, youth group events, put it on Twitter, etc. Since they’re memorable, I say them often, and they sum up much of what I am teaching students anyway. These rules have helped students and myself on occasion make better choices.
Rule #1. Don’t be stupid. This rule covers the litany of things that are covered in our waivers and helps so many times when dealing with middle and high school guys. It’s rooted in Paul’s words to the Ephesians in chapter 5:15-17. He exhorts believers to be wise in how they live, not foolish (or stupid which is my translation). What I love about this rule is the simplicity. I can tweet “Don’t forget rule #1” before Spring Break and my students know what I’m talking about. I can mention it before a trip and instead of covering every guideline we have or guidelines of a place we’re staying, it covers them all.
Rule #2. This life is not about you… or me. If we claim to be Christians, life is about the only One who really matters. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” Our students are absorbed in an all-about-me world. I’ve used this verse and rule for years to not only remind myself, but also students that our call is to make our lives about God and His glory. This has been so helpful in recent years as students seem to be more self-absorbed than in years past, to continually direct them toward focusing on Jesus, then others, then themselves.
Rule #3. No one sits alone. Jesus always went towards the people no one else wanted to be around. It’s with this example that I saw the need for the last rule. Given to ourselves, we always drift towards what’s most comfortable for us. The call to follow Jesus was never meant to be about comfort though. So yes, I use this rule to remind students to look for those who don’t have friends and are literally sitting alone. More than that though, we’re all alone apart from the gospel and God’s grace. I often will use this as a reminder that we’re called to share the hope we have.
Since I say these often, most of my students can recite these 3 rules. I’ve had parents adopt them as rules for their family. My hope though, is that their lives would be marked by wise choices, selfless love, and a desire to see everyone come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m sure there’s a loophole somewhere in these 3 rules. However, for our group, they’ve worked really well to keep us focused, keep us from making dumb decisions, and to continue to look for people who need the good news of Jesus.