What should I do if our new youth pastor seems reckless and irresponsible?

Q: “My friend at church who has two teenage daughters in the youth program has come to me for advice. I am not sure what I should tell her since I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what is going on. She says that decisions are being made by the youth pastor that seem reckless and irresponsible. He is an experienced youth pastor who, while new to our church, had been on the staff at another church in our denomination where he supposedly had a successful ministry. How much should I get involved? What should I tell my friend to do?”

A: It sounds like your friend respects you and the wisdom you could bring to this situation. This can be a wonderful opportunity for you to model to her two things: (1) how Christians are to be meaningfully involved with one another (Gal. 6:1-2), and (2) how to use biblical principles to guide decision-making (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Since what your friend has told you indicates she has already evaluated the youth pastor’s actions as “reckless and irresponsible” you know you can help her by gently challenging her stance as one “judging” the motivations and actions of another Christian (Prov. 16:2). Biblical counselor Dr. David Powlison reminds us: “We judge others – criticize, nit-pick, nag, attack, condemn – because we literally play God. This is heinous. [The Bible says,] ‘There is only Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?’ Who are you when you judge? None other than a God wannabe. In this we become like the Devil himself (no surprise that the Devil is mentioned in James 3:15 and 4:7). We act exactly like the adversary who seeks to usurp God’s throne and who acts as the accuser of the brethren. When you and I fight, our minds become filled with accusations: your wrongs and my rights preoccupy me. We play the self-righteous judge in the mini-kingdoms we establish (Journal of Biblical Counseling 16, no. 1, fall 1997, 34).

While, as a concerned parent, your friend certainly should be actively involved in the events affecting her daughters, how she pursues interaction with the youth pastor will be a critical part of your counsel. You can remind her to be respectful, to speak gently, to be specific using concrete examples of those things she is concerned about, and to include others at the appropriate time should the youth pastor be unresponsive to her respectful appeal to him. As you counsel your friend it is helpful to remember your goal should be to help form in her personal character qualities that reflect the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22-23) and not simply answer a narrow question. By modeling to her your confidence in Scripture and a gentle, loving spirit as a friend you will continue in a position in her life as one trusted to handle the concerns of life. Modeling such quiet confidence is more important than simply telling your friend what to do, particularly since you don’t have personal knowledge of the situation. Then, both of you are called to trust God. Your friend should be equipped to discern what she should do if she will carefully meditate on the Scriptures mentioned above by being more ready to distinguish sinful conduct from that merely reflective of preference or opinion, and the extent to which she should appropriately confront the youth pastor.

-Dave Edling

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About David V. Edling

Dave Edling is an experienced Christian conciliator who has worked with many conflicted churches. During his decade of service on the senior staff of Peacemaker Ministries, he participated in over 200 mediation and arbitration cases and worked with nearly twenty thousand Christians engaged in conflicts affecting churches of almost every denomination. Dave holds several graduate degrees in addition to his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University. They are: Master of Arts in Human Behavior, United States International University (now Alliant International University); Juris Doctor, California Western School of Law; Master of Arts in Religion, Westminster Seminary California; and Master of Arts in Biblical Conflict Resolution, Birmingham Theological Seminary. Dave has served as a trustee on the Board of Directors for Covenant College and Westminster Seminary California and has taught in the Doctor of Ministry programs for Reformed Theological Seminary, Mid-Western Baptist Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. In addition, Dave has been a lecturer in practical theology for several other Christian colleges and seminaries.
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