“What am I supposed to do, swivel?”
An exasperated friend asked me that recently. He was telling me about a rule he had received as a Christian youth camp counselor. In the contract for the camp, he had been told, “You can only side hug the campers. No front hugs.”
And that’s an OK rule. That makes sense, I get that. It’s designed to protect both the campers and the counselors. But my friend had a problem. Occasionally a camper would break down in tears, say something like, “My uncle just died and it is killing me” and then throw their arms out for a front hug.
Which is when my friend proclaimed, “What am I supposed to do swivel? In that moment, as they lean in for a hug, should I just turn, lightning fast and offer them a side hug? ‘Go ahead, let it out fella, go ahead and cry on my hip.’”
The weird thing is my youth group basically had the opposite rule. At the end of each time we hung out, we couldn’t leave the room until we had all hugged the mandatory number of necks. The youth minister would say, “5 mandatory hugs tonight” and then the most awkward 7th grade hugs would commence. (They weren’t awkward for me, I was rocking MC Hammer type pants and a vanilla ice stripe in my eyebrow, my hugs were dope. Yo.)
But hearing his story about the forced side hug made me realize something: there are no internationally agreed upon rules for the governance of youth groups.
So today, I thought I would set out to right that wrong. To create a list of rules for all youth groups based on the ideas we’ve all discussed in the last 18 months. I give you …
The Stuff Christians Like Youth Group Rules …
1. The youth group bus or van will not be purchased from a dealership named, “Vans that like to catch on fire & buses that break down in the middle of the night on the side of the road on the way to New Hampshire ski retreats.”
2. Only one “dude with an acoustic guitar” will be allowed per youth group.
3. If you go on a retreat and you’re boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t go, they should expect to get dumped when you return home. Cause that’s happening.
4. All youth group ministers should expect at least one kid to ask for a precise definition of “what it means to be a virgin.”
5. Only tankinis and swim shirts shall be worn on youth group beach trips.
6. All youth group retreats should be held at locations that could double for horror movie backdrops because it adds to the intensity of the weekend.
7. Youth group volunteers who are helping out primarily to relive their own high school glory days vicariously through the teens will be removed quickly and quietly.
8. At no point should there be a circle of back massages during a youth group event. (Saw that happen a number of times.)
9. At no point should a youth minister try to keep a bad dating relationship together simply because he knows that as soon as the church girl dumps the non church boyfriend he’ll drop out of youth group.
10. Every month there should be at least one gross food related game played. Preferably involving baby food. Preferably not involving me.
11. The big tub of orange drink should not be stirred with a youth worker’s sweaty arm.
12. You should pull and eventually apologize for epic pranks, claiming that you want to do “all things with excellence” when you are caught.
13. The one parent who complains about something you did will not be empowered to steer the entire course of the youth group. The 50 other parents who didn’t complain will also be considered.
14. If someone hasn’t complained or taken issue with or questioned something your youth group has done in the last six months you will retreat to your youth room and ask yourselves, “What are we doing wrong?”
15. The guy with the jeep will always let the pastor’s kid ride shotgun. In 1993 that would have meant me and the jeep guy were pretty tight.
16. If the youth minister changes his/her tone of voice, vocabulary and outfit, when they get around youth, saying things like, “Yo, my tweets are blowing up, we ballin’ on a budget,” that youth minister will be hit with water balloons filled with honey.
Those are my rules for youth group, but I’m sure I missed some.
What rules did your youth group have?
What rules for youth group would you add?