Guilt or Grace?

July 15th, 2012

Pizza, soft drinks and cheese doodles. Throw in some crazy activities and you have the perfect ingredients for a youth night. But youth are very perceptive, and they will pick up on “secret ingredients” as well. Two of those ingredients are guilt and grace. How you communicate guilt or grace will go a long way towards developing the flavor of your ministry.

Guilt says to your youth, “You need to be reading the Bible more often.”

Grace says, “I’ve found that the Bible answers many of life’s questions. Have you?”

Guilt says, “Why haven’t you been in Sunday school lately?”

Grace says, “We’ve missed you and hope you’ll join us again.”

Guilt says, “Your beliefs are wrong. It says in the Bible that . . .”

Grace says, “I’m not sure I agree with you; let’s take a look at this Bible passage together.”

Guilt says to the kids on a retreat, “You need to accept Jesus as your Savior. If you haven’t, do it tonight.”

Grace says, “Jesus is offering you a free gift. Are you ready to say yes?”

Guilt says to youth acting up, “Do you remember what we studied about . . . ?”

Grace says, “Who can recall our discussion about . . . ?”

Guilt says to a volunteer, “You should have done . . .”

Grace says, “Another way to do this is . . .”

Guilt says to a Sunday school teacher, “Have you been sending birthday cards and ‘we miss you’ postcards every week?”

Grace says, “If you don’t have time to do this every week, I encourage you to set a goal and gradually increase it over time.”

Guilt says to a parent, “Are you having family devotions?”

Grace says, “I’d be glad to help you develop some spiritual activities for your family.”

Guilt says to your congregation, “We’re desperate for someone to help with this event. Call me if you’re available.”

Grace says to an individual in your congregation, “I believe you have the gifts we need on this team. Will you pray about it?”

Guilt says, “God doesn’t like it when we . . .”

Grace says, “God loves us, even when we least deserve it.”

In these phrases, we communicate something of our theology, our beliefs about what motivates people, and even our personal values. If we want our youth and congregations to come to believe in a God of grace, it’s vital they not experience our ministries as places full of guilt. After all, Jesus came that we might experience life . . . in abundance!

Ten years from now your youth probably won’t remember your brilliant lesson on the book of Numbers. They won’t remember your great publicity and games. They probably won’t even remember what was on the menu. What they will remember is how you helped them feel, about themselves, about God, and about the church. So think about it, how are you seasoning your youth group activities? Why not try using less guilt and pouring on the grace?

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