There was a terrible shooting at a church here in Colorado Springs several years ago, where 3 people ended up dying and several others were shot. Rightly so, many of the churches in town and across the country started to make safety a priority. Our church came up with different plans, hired security guards and implemented a safety committee to think through everything we do in an attempt to make our church completely safe.
I was asked to participate in a meeting with our safety team where the conversation got tense. All youth mission trips, interactions with the homeless, our youth facility and even social media tools were suspect to being unsafe. Because my filter is often broken, I blurted out something about God’s call on our life is not one of safety. There is risk in following Christ and especially in loving our neighbors. These men gave me that look that says, One more comment like that and you are going out to the woodshed, son! As I look back on that day I realize that they had a good point–but so did I.
I do believe that many of us on the Christian journey are tip toeing towards death. It is this same tiptoeing that many teenagers often see as inauthentic after they spend anytime surveying the life of Christ. If I said “give me an example of safety in the Scriptures”, what would you say? The word “safe” is all throughout the scriptures and you will see David asking for safety in the Psalms or God keeping His people safe from the evil one in 1 John 5:18. Having said this, you will find no verses telling the followers of Jesus that the journey is to be or will be safe. I find the opposite. So now what? Well I do know this, there is a balance between the risk of following Christ that I want to demonstrate to my students and at the same time I don’t want to intentionally put them in harm’s way.
Here is what a balance of risk and safety can look like;
* I am all about background checks for potential volunteers
* I will continue to take students on trips where some element of risk is involved.
* It took me many months, but I’m O.K with a security guard as long as they are friendly and get the overall mission of the church. Our officer happens to be professional, yet shows the love of Christ to every homeless person or foul-mouthed teenager that comes in our doors.
* I would rather focus on educating students how to use wisdom in risky situations instead of sterilizing their environment for them. I would rather prepare the student for the road instead of the road for the student.
Does your theology conflict with your church’s policies on safety or not?
You won’t hurt my feelings, am I being irresponsible?
The Burner is super-proud and mondo-pleased to have Nate Stratman’s input and insight on youth ministry. Nate is a youth minister in Colorado and blogs at www.natestratman.com.