A few weeks ago I spoke at the BOOST Conference. BOOST is a resource for out-of-school time workers. (After schol programs, assemblies, stuff like that.) In other words, these are people who work with children and teenagers.
If you think about it, youth ministry people are out-of-school time workers, too. The major difference is that we work for religious organizations which are typically privately funded and folks at BOOST work for publicly funded organizations. But we love the same people, just work on opposites sides of the wall separating church and state.
The first thing to come up in my presentation was a question about the separation of church and state. I was ready for it.
Issues of separation of church / state are legitimate. But it often feels like a real, physical wall of separation when in fact it is a cultural barrier based more on fear than anything else.
We spent 10 minutes listing out some of the fears….
- There’s fear of litigation if a public entity and private religious group work together.
- There’s fear of what the board might say.
- There’s fear that a parent might get all funky and go to the board or threaten to sue.
- There’s fear that bringing a religious group on campus or a private group using religious space might lead to cross-pollination, even by inference. Christians worry about “watering things down” and public groups worry about “proselytizing.”
The list of fears actually never ends.
When both sides are afraid of one another there are typically at least two factors present.
- They don’t know one another.
- They don’t have the same language.
And that’s precisely the case when it comes to youth workers and out-of-school workers. We have common goals, common love for the same students, and here’s the kicker… ARE LITERALLY OFTEN THE SAME PEOPLE! At one point in my seminar we went around the room and introduced ourselves. Nearly half of the people attending my seminar were either part-time church staff or their spouse worked at a church.
So what’s the point?
At the end of the day we can build relationships on shared goals. Every youth worker and every out-of-school worker wants to help build a better community.
And that’s a building block towards working together.
Let’s stop building walls around what we disagree on and instead build bonds on things we can agree on.