Case study: Youth group sponsors and the male stripper

What to do when other believers step over the line

Jan can hardly believe her ears. At best, having a male stripper at a birthday party sounds like very poor judgment. At worst, it borders on immorality. Those involved are the sponsors of her daughter's youth group. What should she do?

Jan's daughter is in the youth group of a very large church. For various reasons, Jan and her husband are not completely happy with the church, although they have been members there since moving to the area eight years ago. Jan is bothered by what seems to her to be a low level of spiritual intensity in church members' lives. She is disturbed by the inconsistencies between what people profess and how they live during the week.

Jan and her husband live in a metropolitan area. So, they have visited other churches of the same denomination, but they always return to their "home" church. Drawing them back are their Sunday school class and the worship services. The pastor's Sunday morning sermon has always been a highlight for Jan.

One day, Beth (a friend from church) and Jan were talking about birthday parties. Beth recounted what had happened at a birthday party she and her husband had attended not long before. The party had been in a reserved room at a local restaurant. All of those present were from the church. One of them served on the congregation's governing board. Several of the couples present often serve as sponsors for youth group activities.

Triple x indicating something highly

Beth had helped organize the party and, together with another woman, had hired a male stripper for entertainment. Beth said she thought it would be funny to watch the long-standing church members' reactions to something so unexpected. She had given specific instructions to the stripper that he was to only strip down to his boxer shorts. At the party, however, the stripper did his entire act (described in quite graphic detail by Beth).

While party-goers apparently expressed dismay at the event's outcome, not one of the church members walked out during the "entertainment.

Beth thought it was kind of funny that the entertainment had not turned out like the organizers had envisioned. Jan, on the other hand, was horrified.

What Jan has heard from her friend has given her serious reservations about the depth of spirituality and moral judgments of everyone at the party. She wonders about the quality and depth of spiritual mentoring her daughter gets from these people when they serve as role models and mentors in Bible study groups, weekly youth activities, and overnight teen outings.

Jan wonders what she should do at this point.

She thinks about talking to the youth pastor. But she's not sure what she should say. Should she tell him the whole story as she has heard it? Should she name those involved? Should she demand a "house cleaning" in terms of the sponsor list for the youth group? Should she say anything to her daughter?

She thinks about just walking away from the church. But, she also feels some responsibility to help the church become what it's supposed to be. She thinks about trying to see the senior pastor. But, she knows he is extremely busy, and she's also afraid he'll just think she is a gossip or troublemaker.

Jan wonders if she is overreacting to what her friend Beth thinks is just a harmless joke.

Finally, she decides . . .

Processing the case study

Some General Questions

  1. What principles should we follow in interacting with believers who have done things we think are at odds with biblical morality?
  2. What course of action will lead to healthy outcomes for the community of faith?
  3. How do we balance "I don't want to judge them" with "We need to hold each other accountable"?
  4. Can you think of examples of similar situations which involve Christians making questionable decisions?

For a group leader: This case study can provoke thre areas of discussion:

  1. How should church leaders handle potentially explosive events?
  2. At what level should church leaders (such as the pastor) get involved in drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior?
  3. Is it any of the church's business what its members do "on their own time"?

Starter Questions About This Specific Case

Use these questions to begin processing the aftermath of this incident involving local youth group sponsors, either individually or in a group.

  1. Who are the principal figures involved in this situation and what is at stake for each of them?
  2. What general principles do we use to navigate through explosive situations like this?
  3. How can the church best "be the church" when things like these happen?
  4. Is this one of those times when . . .
    1. Church leaders need to act pastorally and smooth things over and get beyond a regrettable incident?
    2. Church leaders need to be prophetic and clearly reject unacceptable behavior?
  5. What are the dangers of following the course of action you would suggest?
  6. Take the event one step further: If you were the pastor and Jan came to you with this story, what would you do?
  7. Did the idea of hiring a stripper as entertainment undermine or at least trivialize — even if unconsciously — the moral convictions/positions of the party's organizers?

Seven case study guidelines to aid in your reflection and discussion.

Note: This case study describes an actual happening.

-- Howard Culbertson,

Afterword: Some Guidelines

When church leaders learn about a questionable moral decision made by leading members, it's crucial to approach the situation with wisdom, compassion, and a commitment to upholding the values and principles of the faith community. Here are some guidelines they might consider:

Using guidelines like these can help leaders navigate challenging situations with integrity and compassion while also staying committed to upholding the moral and ethical standards of the faith community.

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