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 she runs into between what people profess and how they actually live during the week.

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

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 there was apparently some dismay among party-goers at how the event had turned out, not one of the church members had 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 is getting 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. Yet 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. Yet, 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 over-reacting to what her friend Beth thinks is just a harmless joke.

Finally, she decides . . .

  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 likely produce the healthiest 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: There are two areas of discussion which this case study should provoke:

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

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

  1. Who are the principal figures and what is at stake for 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 in following the course of action you would suggest?
  6. Take the event one step further: Suppose 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.

This case study, written by Howard Culbertson, describes an actual event

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