[I was reading my wife's copy of Just Between Us, a ministry magazine for women married to pastors. I liked the article so much, I asked them if I could reprint it since it wasn't online anywhere yet. They graciously agreed - so here you go - I hope you enjoy this perspective as much as I did.]

Schoolyard bullying has become a hot topic in the past decade. Teachers, administrators, and students are trained to recognize and respond to warning signs and to confront the people and behaviors involved. Perhaps our ministries need to follow their lead. If you’ve been involved in ministry, you’ve probably seen the effects of bullying. Just because we grow up doesn’t mean we outgrow meanness, control issues, and insecurities. Just because we follow Christ and serve with others who follow Christ doesn’t mean we’re no longer susceptible to human struggles. Let’s put a plan in place for recognizing and responding to the warning signs in order to stop bullying.

Recognize. Bullying is aggressive behavior and an imbalance of power or control. Bullying is not synonymous with authority, supervision, or assertiveness. Authority figures can bully those under their care, but a volunteer can also bully paid ministry staff. While sometimes assertiveness is justified to get things done, it can turn into bullying. Unfortunately, we justify bullying under the guise of leadership or boldness. To recognize bullying, watch for the following.

  • Bullying is repeated over time. When an aggressive display of imbalanced control is repeated over time, it’s bullying. Bullying often begins when the bully attempts to embarrass or shame someone, and when she sees it works, she’ll try it again and again for her own advantage.
  • Bullying can take several forms. Ministry bullying is often verbal, such as teasing, even when we know the teasing is hurtful. Ministry bullying can also involve intimidation. “Go ahead and move forward with that idea if you want. You’ll only be hurting yourself.” Ministry bullying also manifests itself in exclusion — neglecting to invite someone to a meeting or include her in a decision-making process.
  • Bullying is often rationalized. Because ministry bullying is often connected to leadership, you might hear such excuses as “She made her choice. And choices have consequences.” “She just needs to grow up and deal with the reality of ministry.” Sometimes such statements might be true, and holding someone accountable for choices is essential. But bullying isn’t accountability; it’s aggressive behavior with an imbalance of power or control.

Respond. Once you suspect bullying, it’s important not to prolong the behavior.

  • Pray. Prayer is your most important tool. Prayer places you (and the situation) under God’s authority. While He’s much more familiar than you are with the situation, taking it to Him builds trust that He’ll take care of the details and guide you in your responses. Accessing God’s peace, courage, and direction is the best option in any situation.
  • Gather information. It’s easy to run to the rescue of a bully’s victim, but it’s important to avoid responding emotionally. Avoid assumptions. Gain respect from people involved by asking questions. Try to understand the big picture. There’s likely more to the situation than you’re aware of (or will ever know), such as past baggage, personality conflicts, or personal issues. Let God guide you to the information He wants you to have and to allow you to see the truth of the situation.
  • Act with love. If God leads you to action following prayer and gathering information. He’s going to lead you to respond with love. That’s how God works. Keep in mind that God’s love is not always the “feel good” love, it’s confrontational. God’s love is whatever is best for His will and it will stretch us. But God’s will is exactly what we would choose if we could see all God sees. Listen and trust God’s guidance even when it’s difficult. Forgive. Confront. Discipline. Show mercy.

When immersed in ministry, you can begin to see the role you — and others — play in it. But God’s stage is much bigger and He’s the only star. When our perspective is distorted, and the perception of power and control is imbalanced, we’ll experience bullying in ministry, which takes the focus off of God. Instead, let your ministry glorify God. Build healthy relationships and watch for warning signs of unhealthy behavior and attitudes. When we do ministry God’s way, we’ll all stand together in ovation as the curtain falls.

(c) 2011, reprinted from Just Between Us, 77 South Barker Rd, Brookfield, WI, 53045. Written by Susan Lawrence. She is a conference and retreat speaker and author of Pure Purpose. She’s passionate about connecting individuals and teams of people in purposeful and healthy ways.

We Are Trabuco

 —  March 1, 2011 — 2 Comments

This video … is painful … and awesome. Hahahah … from Trabuco Owns the Weekend.


I still get nervous walking in to the student room every week…I still feel nervous walking up to a group of girls and attempting to make a connection. I always feel relieved to see the welcoming faces of my sweet small group.

Yet, every once is awhile there will be a girl who so clearly doesn’t want anything to do with me. You know the girl, she is the one that only comes to programs at church because of the social element…and she has no desire to be social with an adult. No matter how witty or funny I attempt to be…she gets away from me as quickly as possible. Once, I even asked a girl, who was in my small group for a few weeks, what she got for Christmas and she looked me dead in the eyes and said “I think we can talk about this in small groups” and she got up and walked away. It was amazing.

Over the years when this happen I have to give myself a little pep talk. Here’s the main talking points from that talk:

Don’t take it personal - This isn’t about me. I am mean…look at me…this is so clearly not about me:)! This is about the girl’s issues. Which may range from being insecure around adults, not able to trust adults or too consumed with talking to boys that she can’t bother talking to you. This is not about me.

Don’t give up- Every girl human needs multiple people who believe in them, love them and encourage them in their faith. I can’t be discouraged by her lack of response to me. In fact, her response drives me to convince her that I am her biggest fan and believe in God’s plan for her life.

Give space- Use discernment. If you sense she feels overwhelmed by your presence when other students are around than give her space. Wait till she’s alone or wait till small group…but in those moments be clear about your care for her.

Follow up- Connect outside of the four walls of church. Send her an email on facebook or send her a text. If you don’t get a chance to affirm her while at church make sure you get one in after church.

I’ve NEVER met a girl who in the end didn’t love the adult leader in their life…it sometimes takes time and it sometimes takes commitment but it can happen.

What tips to do you have for caring for the students in your life who don’t what anything to do with you?

There are LOTS of great tracks…seriously. But if I were gonna pick, I would go to Mark DeVries Sustainable Youth Ministry track on Friday. The stuff his organization does with churches through Youth Ministry Architects is life-changing for youth and childrens’ ministries. Go!

AND if u do, the first one to bring me a picture of Mark holding a sign that says, “Stephanie Caro is my favorite” wins an autographed copy of his new books.

I’m pitiful, yes.


Posted by Kurt Johnston

In Hollywood there is a concept among screen writers and directors known as “The Third Door”. Basically, this is how it works: The first door represents a direction a story might take that is very predictable…very traditional. The audience would know what is coming, anticipate it and usually be completely satisfied. An example might be the traditional formula of “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back”. That whole formula is very “first door” Especially the “boy wins girl back” part.

Second door is when the story opens a door that is less expected….one that the
audience probably didn’t see coming. A great example of this would be in the movie The Breakup starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. At the end of the movie, right about the time you are expecting the classic, first door, ending….that they would get back together, the story opens a second, less expected door: The characters remain friendly, but DO NOT get back together! Not the expected ending to a movie that seemed to be following the traditional formula. The ending was a second door ending.

Third door is when the story goes someplace COMPLETELY different….it takes a twist that people would say they never saw coming; a twist they would have never even thought to anticipate. For example, a third door ending to The Breakup might be that in the last scene, as the two characters are running across the street to embrace, kiss and reunite, one of them gets run over by a bus. Fade to black and roll credits.

What does this have to do with junior high ministry? I think far too many junior high
ministries run our programs, our camps, our small groups and even spend our one-on-one time with students in a FIRST DOOR manner. Kids know what to expect, it fits the formula, and most people are satisfied. It is safe, predictable and easy.

But what if we started to think about SECOND and THIRD door ways to minister? What if we did things, asked questions, taught lessons, and interacted with students in ways that were a little less predictable?

My challenge to you this week: Find one or two areas in your ministry and try something THIRD DOOR!

Little announcement video promoting the next round of student leadership in HSM.



 —  February 28, 2011 — 1 Comment

Are you coming to SYMC? In just a few short days we head to Chicago!!

Are you blogging or on twitter? Let me know and I’ll follow you.

And I’ll take that…

 —  February 28, 2011 — 1 Comment

For some random last week I was thinking of the funny things that have been given to me or I have had to take from students over the last 15 years of ministry.

These may be my top 3:

1. Weed (grass, pot, etc…) and a bong. This one was given to me by a girl after camp. She asked me to take her home after camp so that she could give me her pot and pipe. I was so excited for her and this amazing step she was taking in her life. But in all honesty, I was a little freaked out. Because I had to drive home with pot and a pipe in my car…and I was pregnant. I was super careful to obey all laws. How horrible would that have been if I got pulled over? As soon as I got home, I flushed the pot down my toilet and threw the pipe in a dumpster.

2. A Comso magazine featuring a section on Kama Sutra. (if you are unaware of what this is…do not search on the internet…it’s a graphic tool for married couples!) I found a group of girls and guys gathered around it…yikes. I quickly claimed it and put it in my suitcase…we were on a mission trip. Because it appeared that I claimed it as my own…I was given a name by one of the students. Dragonslayer. He’s 28 and still refers to me by that name.

3. Dirty Dice (also for married couples). We were having are end of the year small group party. One house- 4 small groups both boys and girls. Most of the students were outside by the pool, when I noticed that a handful of my girls were missing. I went searching, to my surprise I found them in a room with some guys playing with the dirty dice. I am pretty certain that nothing went down but some laughing but either way I was feeling like we should skip the party and get to the bible studying.

What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve confiscated from a student?