The other day I answered a question that was posed in a Children’s Ministry forum that I belong to. “How do you all handle seeing Facebook posts of your adult volunteers drinking or bar hopping?” There was definitely a diversity of opinion among the members of the group. So, I thought that this would make a good blog post and a healthy conversation.
Before I get into it, let me make something perfectly clear: This is my opinion. I am not declaring doctrine, nor am I telling you what your standards should be. I am simply sharing my personal thoughts on the subject.
On my Kids Ministry Team, we have a policy for our Children’s Ministry volunteers that states, “I will strive to live a holy life and avoid habits that diminish my personal testimony or hinder my ability to lead. I understand that my position on the leadership pyramid leaves me with less options than others.” This includes drinking alcohol in public (bars, restaurants) or posting pictures of themselves partaking in alcohol.
My leaders also know that it is my desire and preference that they not drink alcohol AT ALL. I understand that this may seem drastic to some of you. Certainly, there is a point-of-view that says, “Drinking alcohol, as long as you don’t get drunk, is not a sin.” This is a belief many people hold based on the fact that Jesus apparently drank wine at different times in the New Testament account. Also, Ephesians 5:18 seems not to prohibit drinking alcohol, but does condemn becoming drunk: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit…” I definitely won’t argue or discuss that viewpoint. I am not addressing the subject of “Should CHRISTIANS drink alcohol?” That is a broad subject for another blog, another time (most likely another author, because I don’t plan to address that issue).
There are many things that, while they are not necessarily sin or sinful – as a leader of other Christ followers – I do not do. The reason is not simply because it is sin, but because there are many who would be confused or troubled by me doing it.
“It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God.” – Romans 14:21-22
Since my goal is not to “be free to do things,” but rather to lead others in their walk with Christ, there are things I have decided just are not worth it because of the difficulty they would cause others I am trying to lead.
Alcohol is a killer – in many ways. Teen alcohol use, alcoholism, drunk-driving, etc. I really just don’t want to be connected with something that has VERY few positives about it and PLENTY of negatives.
Being leaders and teachers of children – we have to have a MUCH higher standard for our habits and behavior. Children are impressionable in ways that adults may not be. Jesus cautioned us in Matthew 18:6, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” This means that we must go above and beyond in not allowing anything in our lives to have the potential to cause children to choose a path that is destructive to them.
It is one thing to make a choice to privately drink wine/beer with dinner or in the privacy of your own home (Ephesians 5:18). But, once you choose to be a LEADER – especially to children – the standard is much higher. As Dr. John Maxwell so eloquently puts it:
“The heart of leadership is putting others ahead of yourself. It’s doing what is best for the team. For that reason, leaders have to give up their rights. The higher you go in leadership, the more its going to cost you. You will have to give up to go up.”
Being involved in a ministry team is purely voluntary. I believe that anyone who is involved in ministry should be willing to represent the church they serve. Depending on your context and the standards in your community, you should be willing to come in line with the standards that are set forth in those ministries.
I understand there are many who will say, “You’re just being legalistic! You are making up do’s and don’ts that aren’t in the Bible! If Jesus didn’t want us to drink he would not have started his ministry by turning water into wine.” Again, those arguments would be valid if we were talking about “Christians in general.” But, we are talking about those who CHOOSE to be a part of a ministry team that focuses on leading children in their spiritual journey to become more like Jesus.
I want my leaders to live lives that are above reproach and would never cause a parent or child to question their heart, motives, or lifestyle. I have that rule to protect the kids, but also to protect the volunteers from unnecessary criticism. One day I will stand before God and answer for the way I led my team. I would much rather receive a rebuke from God for “having too high of a standard that you kept some people from choosing to serve” rather than “you caused many of my little ones to stumble.”
So, I know I have opened up a HUGE debate here. I would love to have some of your thoughts on this. I invite opposing points of view. The goal is to learn from each other. Please leave a comment in the Comments section on this post.