“I got a call saying some people are concerned about this kind of thing,” he explained. “Youth group happens in the youth room. Even if there’s only one kid. That’s where you do your Bible study.”For the laymen out there, "some people are upset/concerned" is maddening. Use it only when anonymity is absolutely necessary, as it will cripple your pastor's confidence. "Some people" might as well be "all people." Because if we don't know who's mad, we are ill at ease with everyone. It leads us to be timid, suspicious, distrusting. (eg. Can we tell this person about our fears and struggles, or is this person the one who thinks I'm doing a terrible job?) There are times when vulnerable people lack the confidence to bring concerns directly, but most other times the biblical mandate to take an offense to someone directly, not to someone anonymously through someone else, is more necessary.
Who called? How many people are concerned? Which ones? And would it be okay to teach them to worship Satan as long as we did it in the youth room?
“I appreciate the concern,” I told him. “If someone else calls, be sure to remind them of my phone number.”
The next day, a friend called, pretending to wonder what the young people did on Sunday night. “Some people are concerned . . .”
The Great A&W Incident, as it’s known around our house, baptized me into the murky waters of church ministry and the sideways, backhanded, upside-down channels we use to communicate with one another in the family. Before The Incident, I assumed we would all talk to each other. Not around each other.
What a naive dork I turned out to be.
It was a small thing, The Incident. But it fit into a larger pattern of crooked-line communication that one day, years later, helped break a church into a million tiny pieces.
I learned a good line from Andy Stanley in his "Life Rules" series: "Never say something about someone you wouldn't say to them." I'd add this rule of thumb: If you can let an offense go, do it. If you can't, take it to the offender, not to others.