Should Youth Leaders Drink?

23 Apr

Today at the grocery store I ran into a youth leader, we said hello and continued to shop. We ran into each other again in the front of the store. She and a girl friend had a large bottle of vodka and some other misc hard liquor.

As a youth leader, does this send a negative message? I am not talking about is it right or wrong to drink.

When you are leading students, is it a wise thing?

Does your leadership team or church have a covenant regarding alcohol?



14 Responses to “Should Youth Leaders Drink?”

  1. John Garay April 23, 2010 at 1:51 AM #

    Hmmm… I’m a youth pastor that enjoys an occasional glass of wine and champagne at special occasions. I have never been drunk and I do not know what it is like to be “buzzed”. I am careful of where I drink and how I drink because I do not want to set a bad example for my students. I hold the same standards for my youth staff, and if I do not leave room for inappropariate behavior from any of them. If asked, I have no problem telling my students my stance and they all seem to respect me for it.

  2. chrisharkins April 23, 2010 at 3:00 PM #

    A few responses from Facebook:

    Matt- i beileive youth pastors have to set an example and one drink isnt even good because if a student see it he thinks he can to
    Yesterday at 8:49pm ·

    Tina- I don’t see a problem. Adults are allowed to do things children shouldn’t. It is legal for an adult; illegal for a student. As long as you aren’t drinking at youth events. 🙂
    11 hours ago ·

    Carol- All things are possible, but not all things are beneficial. I think churches are right in asking for that higher standard.

  3. Andy Disher April 23, 2010 at 3:23 PM #

    WOW – What a controversial topic. In my opinion.. I think if an adult wishes to have an alcoholic beverage in the privacy of their own home, that is their choice. I’m not a supporter of getting drunk/buzzed/tipsy – but I’m not against having a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with a BBQ.

    I think that an adult leader/volunteer needs to understand that they are not just a leader (which, in essence is someone who is setting an example) at “youth group” but also in the community. For me, because of that, I make sure I check my surroundings and where I’m at. Not because I’m ashamed, but rather, I don’t want it to appear something that it isn’t. When I’m out with my wife, I see if any students are/could be there. IF I am going to the local business to buy beverages, I either (a) go where they won’t be or (b) have someone else pick up stuff.

    It’s all about setting the example to our students as well as being aware of our surroundings. I don’t think it’s too much to ask a leader (I have and have people leave..) to be aware of their habits, and where they are … and what they are doing.

    Plus (sorry for the rant..) .. it’s incredibly easy these days for students to see what “leaders” are doing in their personal lives (with Facebook and all.)

    Does this leader walking out with (obvious) liquor send a negative message? Yes.
    Was it wise for them to do that.. not really.

    There are ways to be responsible and wise and a leader to students – and that wasn’t one of them.

  4. dave April 23, 2010 at 4:45 PM #

    I would say that we are free in Christ to do what the spirit allows and if it is not in direct violation of a stated command then we are free to do so, but I also believe that youth leaders we are to be held to a higher standard than what is “allowable.” We need to understand that we are also free not to do what is allowable for others.
    I agree with Carol when she says that not all things are beneficial. Is it really worth the risk that one student may take our occasional drink as unspoken permission to drink?
    I have asked volunteers to step down due to drinking because what we do in moderation, in our homes, in private, our students will do to excess.
    It is amazing what our students find out about us and what we do in “private”
    I also think that we need to be really aware of “causing our younger brothers to stumble.” We will be held accountable.
    I guess What I’m trying to say is, yes, we have the right to drink, but we need to balance our rights against the needs of our students and “the Calling” we have received from GOD.

  5. Barry Sharp April 23, 2010 at 8:19 PM #

    Chris, you sure chose a tough question to cover. This is like talking about eternal security or Calvinism! The way that I see it is this. I feel like that if I have to sneak around to do things in private, then I should not do it at all. I feel like I need to set the best example for my kids. They see there parents smoke and drink all the time. So, if I am seen drinking, then my kids are going to think that I am no different from their parents. I think that I may have that problem with that in my leadership team, but I am not for sure. We as followers of Christ, are to be set apart from the world. If the world is going to drink, then I am not!!

  6. Chris Mason April 24, 2010 at 4:22 AM #

    This is a fairly modern cultural issue with puritan America. It sounds a lot like eating meat sacrificed to idols. We have stigmatized so many things that then take on an air of taboo and create a much bigger deal than things truly are, we have made alcohol a stumbling block that it really hasn’t been in other countries, cultures, or times.
    Should we be seen eating junk food? How about having a 401K that is vested in companies with highly suspect practices? The bible has a lot to say against lending money for interest and yet we are seen with large portfolios. Almost nothing on TV is redeeming or edifying, same for vast quantities of books, music, and movies. Sitting on our computes is quite often an horrendous waste of our time, minds, talent, and duty to be out in relationships.
    I don’t think this should be the problem we in our pharisee piety seem to view it, but it is a good topic for discussion.
    One note to make on the original statement though; how do you know the alcohol was for her consumption? Many problems are created from people seeing a brief moment in time and extrapolating all kinds of scenarios in their own imagination.
    Thanks for the space.

  7. zackchatterton April 24, 2010 at 5:46 AM #

    This is a hard subject, because it can quickly turn to legalism on both sides of the argument. My wife and I both do drink, however we are careful to not glorify it, or make it seem like a light decision. I think for me, choosing not to drink would be a religious act towards my students by trying to show some sort of holiness above parents/family/friends that they see doing the same. As youth leaders we are called to train students to be followers of Christ, that requires that they are discerning and prayerful in decisions they make. To put the pressure on yourself to not drink for the sole reason of appearing a good example, probably just means you are setting yourself and your students up for you to let them down in another way. There is no biblical standard clearly described for drinking (getting drunk is clearly addressed) so it falls into a category of personal conviction, which is just that, personal. I would have issue with a leader who proclaimed to their group/church freedom in these areas, but then put their personal convictions upon their team.

    In your case specifically Chris, it appears your leaders are open and genuine with you, as they did not choose to wait until a later time where you were not around to purchase the alcohol. That authenticity of who they are seems to me to be a good sign.

  8. Chris Mason April 24, 2010 at 9:37 AM #

    Hope I didn’t overstep my bounds. Sorry.

  9. chrisharkins April 24, 2010 at 12:54 PM #

    Love the feedback on this. I do need to clarify that this was not one of my leaders.

    I think that as leaders, especially youth leaders, we have to be even more careful of the image that we portray to our students. Just because the world does something, and it is not directly written about in the bible, does not make it the best decision. It can be a stumbling block for leaders and for students, especially those who are struggling with alcohol. For me its not a religious thing, its a leadership thing.

    Chris- Great point, I assume that the alcohol was for she and her friend. This is one of the reasons that I have chosen not to drink. I have commit to living above reproach including completely avoiding situations that may lead to temptation, or may appear compromising. Again this is a personal decision, this is not a requirement of my team at this point.

    Again the question is SHOULD youth leaders drink? Not is it allowable.

  10. chrisharkins April 24, 2010 at 4:51 PM #

    From Facebook Carol- I also remember one of my leaders reminding us of the verse about “causing others to stumble” . . . so privacy vs. secrecy is to be considered. Some things are private but not “secret.”

  11. Dave Yaeger April 26, 2010 at 4:21 PM #

    Perception is everything. No matter what the personal motivation to drink or not to drink is, people will draw their own conclusions. From that perspective, avoiding alcohol would be a good thing. But, this also could portray an false standard to youths. Knowing that the youth pastor does not drink could equate to drinking equals sin. I guess my point is that incorrect perceptions go both ways and can lead people astray.

    Solution, in my opinion, is to talk openly about the problem and avoid the false perceptions in the first place. The act of drinking responsibly and the act of avoiding alcohol are both great examples to certain youth. Neither is the ideal choice 100 percent of the time.

  12. Mike April 26, 2010 at 10:46 PM #

    Hi Chris – FINALLY signing up on your new blog!…no wonder I wasn’t getting notifications:)

  13. zackchatterton April 29, 2010 at 12:54 AM #

    I think your question poses a problem. The question of SHOULD leaders drink is a problem. Saying yes implies that leaders, if they feel freedom to, SHOULD drink. I think the problem is more nuanced than that. If you say yes, leaders should drink then if they choose not to, knowing they have the freedom to and enjoy it, regardless of other factors. I have been a youth leader, as well as a staff member for a church and I did drink. More must go into your decision, cultural contexts (in Africa, Christians would never drink, where those in European countries would not think twice), and Personal situations (if your drinking has caused others problems, or encouraged irresponsible or illegal behavior) to name two of many issues. I do not think you can give a blanket statement of yes/no leaders SHOULD drink. If you say leaders should not, you are putting your personal convictions on others (legalism), just like if you say leaders SHOULD drink, simply based of of their understanding of freedom in Christ, you are not addressing the full issue.

  14. chrisharkins April 29, 2010 at 4:18 AM #

    Love all of these thoughts and ideas. Better question would have been is it wise for youth leaders to drink. I had hoped I had explained it, but maybe my choice of words was not the best. It is admissible, there is no biblical mandate that states we cant drink. We are to not get drunk, but drinking is okay. But is it a wise choice? I think no. I don’t see anything positive, or beneficial, that comes from drinking, only negative. It can become a stumbling block for leaders or those we lead who have an addiction. I think that setting a standard for ones self or ones team is okay. We do need to be careful in how we state it. That it is a leadership standard so that we are above reproach. That its not a matter of salvation, or sin, or legalism. It just gives the enemy less to play on.

    I am not trying to say any denomination, leader, or person is wrong in their choice. I am simply asking is it the best thing?

    Again thanks for all the input.

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