Bold move! Coming to youth group high! Wow, a little shocking and a little nerve wracking as a leader. What do you do? What should you do? How do you handle a student showing up to youth group high?
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington are states with legal recreational marijuana, along with 20 others with legal medical marijuana and an estimated 11 more states to legalize recreational marijuana in the near future. The issue of drugs is one that is not new. As long as youth ministries have been reaching students there have been issues with students doing drugs and coming to youth group high.
But with the increase in availability it has become more of a prominent issue. We recently dealt with this issue within our ministry and drew up some policies on how the leaders within our ministry would deal with students showing up high. This is how we handle it, feel free to take this as a policy for your leaders, or just to get an idea of what to do!
1. Everyone is welcome
We want to create an environment where everyone is welcome. We are reaching students who have never been to church, never heard the name of Jesus, and probably have a very foggy line between right and wrong. That is great, and shows me we ARE doing our job!
Our youth group will continue to be a place where everyone is welcome. If students are high I would rather have them at youth group then in some back alley or with friends where they will do something even more stupid. Obviously, students CANNOT use marijuana while at youth group. But regardless of the state they are in when they arrive they are welcome. So, we will not kick them out. However, we will deal with them. Which leads me to number two.
2. We want to see hearts changed, not actions.
Too often in the church we tell people to stop what they are doing instead of dealing with the real issue. Stop smoking, drinking, doing drugs, looking at porn, cussing, fighting, and anything else we deem as inappropriate. However, stopping those actions just means the person will go to hell sober. The issue is not the action, it is the heart!
Jesus has the power to change the heart! We do not want to just deal with the fruit on the tree, we want to deal with what type of tree it is. What the fruit does though is show us the condition of the heart (Luke 6:45). That is another reason we will not kick them out but rather take a deeper interest in their heart and take steps to help them.
3. Something needs to be done
Safety is a high priority. We do NOT want to see any student abusing their body, dragging other students down, or getting hurt at youth group because they are high. We need to take steps to insure the safety of every single one of our students.
Here is the plan of action we will take…
a. Talk with the student to acknowledge we know they are high. We need students to know they are not pulling a fast one on us and we are not oblivious to what they are doing. They also need to know what they are doing is a big deal and we DO NOT approve.
b. Assign a leader to any students who are high to “chaperone” them through the evening. We need to be present with these students. This may mean just hanging out and talking with them separate from the normal programming. In a sense these students need to be babysat. They are obviously dealing with big issues and this gives us a chance to talk with them and find out those issues.
c. Call parents (if applicable) To be honest quite a few of the parents would not even care and in some cases may even be their students supplier of drugs. But the parents do need to be informed. (in some cases we may not be able to because they are either absent, or really would not care at all)
4. Get them help
This is relational ministry at its finest. We have the opportunity to walk with a student through a difficult time. Talk with the student about what is going on in their life. Almost every time you will find the issue is way more than just smoking weed or doing drugs. There is probably a huge backstory. Talk with them about their relationship with Jesus. Find out where they are with Him and help them find and follow Him. Talk with them about why they should stop using drugs, and let them know you are there for them. Most importantly develop a plan with them to help them stop.
Things like this are never easy, but thank you for all that you do! Thank you for taking an interest in students lives and helping them find and follow Jesus!