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Discretionary Misleading In Your Youth Ministry?

Guest Post by Danny Bowers

The other day I was up late with a friend eating cheese dip, smoked salmon, and ice cream. Late like 1 AM where everything I was eating was going to sit heavy on my stomach. But this friend is a cop, and not just any cop but a dang good one, with a resume of accolades. Needless to say, the late night of stories was worth the stomach ache that was pretty much guaranteed the next morning.

My friend is great at his profession.
He has honed his skills very well, especially the art of misleading people. That’s right, my friend has mastered the use of the professional lie. But in his job its called “Discretionary Misleading.” His job demands him to toe the line between a lie and the truth in order to get the information needed to arrest the right bad guy, as well as find as many people involved in the crimes as possible.

At 1 AM as he’s telling me a story at how he had to engage in some half-truths to be able to make an arrest, it hit me: some of our students are going to make great cops one day!

From covering up for a friend on where they were, to what time they really got home after their curfew, to how bad their grades really are, our youth rooms are full of professional “discretionary misleaders.” We overhear their conversations & are even included in them at times. Half the time it seems students don’t even realize what conversations they’re having with us around!

So, the question is how do we as youth pastors, communicators of truth & honesty, help students keep from falling in to these patterns of lying?

The truth is, we can’t. That’s right. We can’t. Nothing WE do is ever going to make a student embrace honesty. It’s only through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the heart change that comes with a desire to follow Christ that students can truly own a character that speaks with honesty and truth.

But we can play a role in helping students live lives of integrity, right? I think we can. Here is what I’ve tried to do in teaching opportunities as well as one-on-one conversations:

I’ve always used Matthew 12:35 & Philippians 4:8, because I think these two verses speak to the heart of our character & NOT merely moral management of our lives. They speak of what comes out of a person naturally.

  • Matthew 12:35 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
  • Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”

I’ve also used a from time to time. I ask them a hypothetical scenario that creates some pretty big consequences. Then, I ask them what their first, or natural response is. Helping them feel what may be their inherent, natural response is a way to help them see how a character apart from Christ functions. It’s also a great chance to highlight the need for the redemption & transformation Jesus brings.

Anyway, these just some thoughts that came from a night of spicy cheese dip and ice cream.

What has been your experience with helping students seek to embrace integrity? What have you done that has seemed to make a difference in how they express their characters?


Danny Bowers oversees the student ministries at Mission Hills Church in Mission Viejo, California. He is married to his high school sweetheart & they have two sons. You can follow Danny on his blog here.

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andy_blanks@churchleaders.com'
Andy Blanks is the co-founder of youthministry360, a ministry committed to equipping youth workers through resources, training, community, and networking. Andy is passionate about God’s Word and the transformation it brings in the lives of God’s people. Andy is a writer, teacher, speaker, and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. He lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife and three daughters. Check out Andy’s youth ministry posts on the ym360 Blog (www.youthministry360.com/blog).