As we've dealt with troublesome teenagers, I've been surprised how many people have said, "You just have to tell them they aren't welcome here." I've been stunned actually. It amazes me. And it hasn't been just *those* parishioners--you know, the ones who are against anyone and everything, so much so that you expect them to say no to everything you suggest simply on principle of who they are. No, this has been long-time members, faithful folks in outreach, and others.
The conversation has continued, despite their *suggestions* and thankfully there are others in the church who see how important it is for us to be in ministry to others, regardless of who they are or the particularities of how they act. It has also helped that these troublesome teens want to be baptized. They talked with me and they have accepted Jesus as their Savior and they do want to "have [their] sins washed clean." Posing things in a religious light changes the situation just a bit for church folk. They're generally stunned and taken aback that these boys even know what baptism is. And honestly, they are pleased with that, but they're still hesitant.
One who has been very helpful in working with the boys has adopted a strategy of reward for them--if they can make it 'til the end of the month on good behavior without her hearing complaints from church members, she'll buy them each a Bible. It's a good strategy--they have to earn something they want. But then again, it's a Bible. Should people really have to earn a Bible?!?
The outlook on baptism has been similar--they have to *earn* it with good behavior. They have to show they know what it means to be a Christian through their actions. I have a strong objection to that. We don't earn baptism. It's a means of grace. Grace that God offers to us when we accept Christ (or our parents take those vows when we are infants). We don't prove ourselves Christians first....proof comes after in our actions. Right?!?! Did I miss something in seminary?
I'm inclined to say I'd baptize the boys tomorrow--they've accepted Christ, they know that baptism means having their sins taken away and they want a fresh start--isn't that enough?
But....to be fair....I do have my own reservations--not about baptizing them in general, but in worship. I know, that's when it's supposed to take place, but think about it a minute. These are two boys who do not understand the *rules* of worship and LOVE attention and I can easily see their "moment in the spotlight" turning into a circus that completely disrupts worship. So, the question becomes, do you risk it?! Do we actually believe God can transform their actions even though there is no past precedent for them to rely on for new behavior in Christ?
(read sarcasm here:) I mean...God can do big things, but that?!? I mean, God can bring about a baby through a virgin...surely God can work a little wonder in two young teenagers? But can we guarantee it?!? Do we have that much faith? I mean, it only takes a mustard seed's worth to move a mountain, but change the hearts and attitudes of two skateboarders....?!?! C'mon.