As our culture becomes more and more Post-Christian, there seems to be less and less consensus on what is morally acceptable. I have had the suspicion, but increasingly it is proving to be fact that our kids have no moral boundaries. They are 100% living into situational ethics. For the most part, this doesn't impact our student ministries.
What kids do and don't do for the 165 hours they are not with us doesn't impact us and we have little control over. Their sexual boundaries, their online activity, the pirating of music and movies, cheating on tests, lying to family, etc. This is all par for the course. But what about when it enters our world?
For the longest time kids played ball with the rules and culture of our student ministry and church. They didn't get it on in the bathrooms, they smuggle in vodka in their water bottles, and they wouldn't smoke bowls before, during or after youth group. If we could get them to swear a little less, we were doing a good job.
But now we have a dilemma.
With the combination of zero moral boundaries and the accessibility of vape pens, it is impossible to truly police behavior. Kids vape tobacco and pot and there is no way to catch them or bust them. Vape pens are concealable and the vape dissipates before anyone can tell what is going on. All the while this is normalizing being high and numbing our students to their own consionsenss and any sense of absolute morality. And now, we as youth workers need to figure out what to do.
Do we drug test? Do we have drug dogs? Do we look away?
It seems every option brings with it a huge amount of negative consequences.
1) Guilt and shame don't deter behavior anymore, and worse, create a deep wound and story about the church and its judgementalism.
2) Looking away hurts my heart, but I am not sure what damage it does to students.
3) I do know that as more and more kids vape at church, all the other students and some parents will probably find out long before us adults do and that crushes the church's reputation as well.
As you can tell with my word vomit, I am simply verbally processing a challenging cultural moment. For me in my context, I am not so worried about youth group, but as we start planning for trips, winter camp, mission trips, I am getting more and more anxious.
In our context, we are working hard to make our ministry safe for every kid, from every background as they wrestle with what it means to be part of God's family. We strive to do no harm to them as they work this out. But this philosophy is getting more and more complex.
I would love to know how you handle these situations and how vaping is impacting your ministry and our student culture. Thoughts?