Should “Bad” Kids Be Allowed in Church?

BY Barefoot Ministries

April 5, 2013


To the passionate and missionally oriented youth worker, the answer is, “No! Never! Don’t even think about banning a teen from church.” To the youth worker who is driven by God’s unrelenting love for the outcast, broken and hurting there is no possibility that our love for teens would allow us to exclude them.

But then we read an insightful comment on Mark 10:17-31 by James Smith. He explains:

Specifically, after the young ruler has announced–quite sincerely, I think–that he has kept all the commandments from his youth, Mark tells us in his typically direct language:
Jesus, looking at him, loved him…
And because he loved him, Jesus then tells the young man something that shocks and dismays him, homing in on the “one thing” that is lacking.
In an age where love is often reduced to uncritical affirmation and unprincipled embrace, we might be stopped short by a love like this–a love that is strangely willing to grieve and sadden and dismay the beloved, but is not for that reason any less loving. Indeed, it is more so, and shows up “affirmation” as a parody of agape.1

So it seems prudent that there is a tension that exists. Love doesn’t exclude while at the same time love creates boundaries for the sake of the beloved. How then do we practice this tension in youth ministry? How do we love in such a way that we are strangely willing to grieve and sadden and dismay the teens we serve? And are we ever supposed to direct this type of action at the “bad” kid?

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One comment on “Should “Bad” Kids Be Allowed in Church?

  1. This post definitely caught my attention because of my current ministry opportunity. Since the end of January 2013 I have been a youth director in a town/community that is definitely different than the community life in which I grew up.

    Saying that, we have many of those so called “bad kids” that come to our church on youth program days as well as Sundays. The first time I had to endure a “you have to take a break” (aka: the child lost the ability to come either the following youth day and/or Sunday) it was SO difficult! As a 24 year old who loves kids like crazy and wants them to know and trust that I do; I was torn.

    But over the past 6 months or so I’ve had to make that call a few more times and I don’t want to say “it gets easier” but the reasoning becomes more evident to myself as well as the child(ren). They get to the point – even 8 year olds – where they realize we are doing this BECAUSE we love them and we believe in them becoming the best they can be.

    Setting those boundaries and sticking to what you say is crucial in helping to develop OUR kids into what they CAN be :)

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