Thursday, January 17, 2008

"I want to get in trouble more"

The other day I was talking to a youth and she said, "I want to get in trouble more." What?!!?! I'm confused. She went on to explain that right now she can stay up until 4 in the morning, can talk on the phone as long as she wants, whatever. (She's in 8th grade). She wants to get in trouble more. You mean, you want more structure? It seems like your current rule maker doesn't really care because there are no consequences?! Basically.

I'm a firm believer in rules, structure, and consequences, especially with youth. At camp I'm often perceived as "the mean counselor" because I have rules and consequences. But generally by the end of the week the kids love me because they know what to expect. They know that if they follow the rules, they'll be praised, and if they don't, they'll be punished and then offered the chance to try again. They know what to expect. They know what it takes to succeed and what will get them in trouble. Some are prone to test the limits, but I see that as them "wanting to get in trouble more"--they want to know that I'll make good on what I've said and that I actually care what they do--that I don't simply have rules for rules' sake.

Currently as I think about ministry and appointments, I'm left thinking, "I want to get in trouble more." When I took my current church my DS said, "I don't really expect you to do anything with the Latino ministry. Just take a year to feel them out and see if you think they are viable. There won't be any consequences for you if they don't grow." Talk about not getting in trouble. Some call that latitude, freedom even. That I could do whatever I want and there would be no consequences. They perceive that as a good thing. But a year and a half later when minimal growth has been achieved and no projected explosion of ministry expected I sort of wish there had been greater expectations laid before me. Granted, it's nice not to have an ax hanging over my head, but I like knowing what's expected of me and having accountability in that.

When I was in high school it was common to read, "not working up to potential" on my report cards. I used to get mad and say, "Well if I'm not working up to my potential then how do they know what my potential is? I mean, if I haven't reached it, how do they know what my capacity is?" I'm a little wiser these days, not much, but a little, and understand better how one knows such things. I also see that they were trying to raise the bar. The unfortunate thing many of my teachers didn't get (or the laziness I'm prone to, depending on how you look at it) is that if they didn't explicitly raise the bar, I wasn't going to work harder. If I could only skim a book and write a book report and still get an A--I was going to do it. But, if I actually had to read the whole book and write a good report to get an A--I'd do that too. I like to do well. I like to succeed. But I'm also human, and occasionally a slacker ,and if I can get by with the minimum, even if it's for a relatively high level of success, I will. But if you raise the bar--I'll rise to the occasion. Maybe it's my quirky personal vice, but it is what it is for now.

The thing I'd like to tell my DS is, you know, if you expect nothing of me, I'm sure to accomplish it, but if you expect great things from me (and there are consequences for not doing so), I'll accomplish that too. Take your pick!


RevErikaG said...

Deb, this is the big conundrum of our system right now...they expect either nothing or everything!
That's why getting into more oh, so thrilling!
Thanks for all you share here.

David said...

why do you think I tell you to get in some "good trouble today"