What Rutgers Coaches & Youth Pastors Have in Common

So the basketball has hit the fan.

No doubt you’ve seen the footage.  The coach allows his passion to overload his good judgment  –  and the players are the victims.

Youth leaders would never dream (I hope) of throwing things at students (though, admittedly, the thought has crossed my mind a time or two….).  But we do sometimes allow our passion to overload good judgment.  And our students pay the price.

When we shame, intimidate, or emotionalize students into a walk with Jesus, we draw them onto a dysfunctional court.  It’s akin to hurling a spiritual basketball at the back of someone’s head.  It’s a poor foundation for solid teamwork and love for the game.  Youth workers act just like those coaches every time we orchestrate an emotional response.  We’re pushing and shoving players every time we guilt a student for not showing up to a Wednesday night Bible study.  When we motivate students to participate as a measure of their ‘commitment to the team’, rather than a genuine desire for Christ, we’re an intimidating Rutgers coach – flailing arms, disgusting slurs, and all….it’s just wrapped in a more socially acceptable package.

And much like many of the Rutgers players, students don’t even recognize it.  They learn to play the game.  They take the lumps as they come.  They cower at the thought of making a mistake.  They strive for perfection on the court.  And they defend the coach’s abuse as ‘normal’.

It’s not normal.  A passion for Jesus is motivated by the Holy Spirit through acts of love, kindness, forgiveness, and guidance – not emotional outbursts, passionate pleas, or veiled, socially acceptable guilt complexes.

How do you motivate students to follow Jesus?

Author: Darren Sutton

I've been in student ministry nearly 30 years…which generally just confirms how much I still don't know. Some days I'm the pizza-eating, over-responding, teaching-on-the-fly, desperate-for-volunteers, frustrated-with-co-workers youth leader that we all are. And sometimes…I knock it out of the park. I'm everywhere on social media that you are!

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