About a year ago we started doing dances for middle school students which I disc jockey at our local youth center. (You spoke at our facility in Waupun.) I have read the lyrics of hundreds of songs to try my best to have appropriate music (both secular and Christian). These dances have been a huge success not only with outreaching to students (200-250 each month), but a local church has gotten behind this ministry by volunteering 15-25 volunteers monthly. However, there are a couple of problems I have had with two of the youth center board members. The first complaint is that the music is too loud, and the second is the way some of the girls dress. The kids loved dancing right in front of the speakers so to help the first issue I pulled the speakers back three feet from the edge of the stage and turned the music down a little but not much (we have the dances in a full sized gym). This still has not been satisfactory for one board member and the other one simply doesn't help at them anymore.
The second problem is what I struggle with more. The girls love to wear the spaghetti strap shirts and some wear the half t-shirts. My opinion is that this is an outreach event, which is to get the kids in our facility and a way to promote our programs and local church events. I want to accept kids for who they are and don't feel this is a battle worth fighting.
I do understand there is a difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior but I don't personally feel this crosses the line. I talked to a couple in their late 50's who volunteer regularly and asked them their opinion. They said the music was something that they have just gotten used to and it's not about them, but they want the kids to have fun. With the dress they said that their great niece was at the dance and wearing something that they didn't approve of, however they were happy to see that she was there, and she talks about how our dances are the ones that most of the kids come too and enjoy. So there is my dilemma in a big nutshell. What's your opinion?
Yeah… that's a tough one. And I won't pretend to have all the answers. This is an issue that many youth workers struggle with when doing outreach.
First… the volume. I'm with you… I don't think it's a big deal. Personally, I think most music kids listen to is too loud. But they still listen to it that loud. So I'll wear earplugs and let them ruin their ears. (Side note: your idea of moving the speakers back was great… and just make sure you're not “louder” than what's typical of djÕs at school dances, etc. You definitely don't want to be 'louder!')
Your second issue is a tough one. It reminds me of the issue of swimsuits on outreach beach trips. What should you allow on the beach? Thongs? No. But bikini's??? I find that very often with these issues, it's not so much the rule you adapt, but how it is enforced.
Jump on our web page www.TheSource4YM.com, go to the top and click on the ARTICLES & HOW TOÕS drop-down menu, then click ASK THE SOURCE. You'll see a bunch of Q and AÕs on that page. Scroll way down until you see the question titled Indecent Swimsuits. That article touches a little about the methodology of enforcing whatever it is you allow.
This issue is definitely a touchy one. Here are a couple thoughts:
- Pray. I'm not just saying that. Really sit down and ask God what He thinks. Pray about it regularly for a week and then just spend some time listening to Him. Sometimes I think I've made up my mind on something and then I realize that I forgot to ask God about it. Once I sit down and do it. I realize, “What was I thinking?” Give it some prayer with an open mind.
- Look at risk vs. reward. That might sound abrasive since we're talking about kidsÕ lives. Really check out if you're doing more damage (risk) than good (reward). Evaluate how effective these dances are at bringing kids in; and not only bringing them in, but THEN being able to reach them for Christ. If you follow it and realize you're not getting much opportunity to help the kids, or you're not providing a safe place (you know all the benefits), then make a switch. Take an honest look at what you're doing. Are you providing more of a positive place for kids that would be doing this anyway? Or (I'm not saying this is true; I'm just throwing this out there), is it possible that some kids who wouldn't have normally gone to dances or been exposed to the “pick up” scene, now are exposed to it?
- Consider talking with your core kids about how they dress. Have them set the standard, even if others choose to dress otherwise. Although, I admit, for me, those core kids would have to be unbelievers. I wouldn't want my believers there at all. It puts soooooooooooo much pressure on the girls to “look sexy,” not only in dress, but in the way they move. And it is a huge temptation for guys. If a guy can watch a girl dance without getting excited, he should check his pulse (especially the way girls dance today).
Personally, I hate dances. I think they force kids to worry about themselves and strive for people to “Look at me! Look at me!!!” (It's so the opposite of II Cor 4:5-7.) The only way I would do one is if I was providing a safe place for kids that were going to dances already.
I don't know if that's what you want to hear. I hope I don't sound like the dance Nazi. I'm all for outreach and thinking outside of the box. I just have seen so many kids get hurt in “dance” situations that I've always chosen different routes.
I hope that helps. Feel free to give me your two cents.
Peace my brotha,
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.