Dodging Bullets: Buddy Becca
Becca is a student’s dream for a youth leader. Becca is one of the most open and friendly youth workers you would ever want to meet. Becca is loved by her parents, but even more so by her students. Becca is highly relational and often has hands-on lessons that her students love. Her fellow leaders appreciate her small group style and the way she draws students into her.
Becca sees herself as more of a friend to her students than an ally of her teens’ parents or staff at her church. Becca loves just hanging out with students and getting to know them, that way she ensures that the Bible lessons she shares is applicable to their lives. At first, Becca’s relational style wins over the parents and leaders of her church. They see the work she is doing and the students are responding really well to all of her positive attention.
Somewhere along the way the line between youth leader Becca and Buddy Becca gets blurrier and blurrier. Some speculate it’s that she joins in on all of her teen’s activities; others speculate that she laughs at their mischief. Becca feels uncomfortable confronting her teens as they have started feeling more like her friends than the adults of their church. They “get” each other.
Her students have gotten very comfortable with Becca, they love stopping by her house and hanging out. They also have made it habit to not really pay attention to Becca when she says knock it off or tries to dissuade them from doing stuff like putting Jell-O in the church baptistery or car surfing down the street. This isn’t helped by the fact that Becca often joins them in laughing with them when her leadership and parents feel she should be trying to reign them in.
When I was a child,
I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.
Her Pastor, Scott, tries to confront her on her childish behavior and she becomes resentful. She feels that her engagement with the students works so well because she walks with them incarnationally, like Jesus and his disciples. Becca soon develops a track record of horsing around with the teens and not bringing them closer to Christ. Parents are more and more concerned that her antics with the kids will cause them to become injured. The chorus of dissention grows until the Elder Board is forced to act, and terminate Becca’s employment.
Questions for Reflection
– Where did Becca go wrong?
– How do you discern between friendship, mentoring and pastoring?
– What boundaries do you have in place to keep you from becoming just another friend?
Becca got bounced for not knowing the difference between being a Pastor and being a friend. There is some overlap between the two, yet there are some key differences. This boundary is not as clear-cut as others.
– Remember your guiding purpose is to bring teens to Christ. That while we may be friendly, the friendship stops when you need to be the Pastor. Lead and step in before someone gets hurt.
– The biggest thing in this is safety. If someone could get hurt physically, emotionally, spiritually by whatever is going on, you do need to stop it and redirect the group. Yes you might lose friends, but you won’t lose disciples.
– The closer you are in age to your youth group the harder it is to keep healthy boundaries will be. However, I’ve seen people of all ages destroy their pastorate with this type of folly.
– Parents trust you to be an adult presence, but you also aren’t a parent. Remember that correction done in private often goes better than ridicule in front of groups.
– You aren’t the parent. Certain behaviors require you to bring the parents into the picture so the student can get the help they need. These include (but not limited to): cutting, self-injury, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, abuse, and suicidality. Some in this list also require you to call the authorities as a mandated reporter (by law).