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Jonathan's Answers to Tough Questions

QUESTION:

Jonathan,

I have a ministry that involves mentoring urban kids. They range in age from 9-19. Basically I try to do for them everything a caring father would do for them .... rides to sports, shopping, etc ... alot of day to day stuff.

Ok, here is the background and the problem. When the kids do some work for me I often take them shopping so they can spend their money. I actually won't even pay them in cash but hold the money in an account for them to spend on worthwhile things. If they earn money some other way such as mowing grass I will still give them a ride to the mall to spend it.

Lately though, some of the boys have gotten into drug dealing. One of them is only 12. I don't actually see them deal the drugs but I know that's where they get their money. Is it right for me to refuse to give them a ride to the mall to spend the drug-money?

I am torn because I don't get to spend as much one on one time with them as I'd like and the shopping trips do give us some good one on one time. However I feel that helping them spend drug-money encourages the drug dealing by showing tacit approval.

I look forward to your reply. God bless you.

In the Lord's Praise,

Mike

ANSWER:

Mike,

Thanks for the email. That's a tough one. It's hard to balance love and discipline in our ministry.

You obviously don't want to close the door on a ministry opportunity with this young man, yet you don't want to condone what he's doing.

It sounds like right now you "suspect" that he's dealing and using drug money when he shops with you. I don't think "suspicion" is worth refusing a ride. Now if he told you it's drug money- then you should tell him straight up- "Listen, I ain't taking you to the mall to spend your drug money. If you want, we can go get a milkshake together ... I'm buying. Because I care for you and like our time together. But I'm not going to support your habit- because that the very habit that is hurting others and is hurting you."

I think it's always good to find the balance between standing up for what we believe, and still being there for them. I think we always need to keep the door open for them. And that door should be a door of grace- NOT a door that's only open if they're perfect. "If you get off drugs, clean up your act, and stop sinning all together, then you can come shopping with me!" If that's what we preach . . . then we can't even go shopping! So we need to open a door of grace. "Hey- if you're struggling with this, and need a friend ... I'm here for you." That door, a door with some boundaries, needs to stay open.

It's a hard balance. Be in the WORD and in prayer about it and let the Holy Spirit guide you.

God Bless,

Jonathan
The Source for Youth Ministry
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