Teens & Faith: Hard questions about youth ministry

It's not easy to work with youth in the church, but some are gifted for it. We all need to share our experience and work together for the success of the Church.

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Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

Seeking to follow where God leads, and thankful that grace covers my multitude of errors.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An Argument for Purgatory

OK, I'm not a Roman Catholic Christian, I belong to the United Methodist Church, but I think I have found an argument for the existence of purgatory. There's a youth pastor I know who was recently informed by her senior pastor of a possible suicide attempt one of her students had made. She was then told that the parents didn't want the news to go any further, so she's not to discuss this others. At the church, only she and the senior pastor are aware of it (as far as they know.)

The rub is this: The student's friends know about it. There is a realization that the news will probably get back to the students in the youth group. Nevertheless, she can neither confirm nor deny the story. So in order to get any good information, people will have to be steered back to the parents or the student, but that's what the parents would like to avoid.

So this youth pastor knows the story, but isn't supposed to even broach the subject with the student. She has the knowledge but has to pretend that she doesn't. She'd like to help, but isn't supposed to. It's not heaven, it's not hell. Purgatory?

How many of us have been put in positions like this because of the (understandable, but unhelpful) fear of the parents. Hey, secrets always get out. The unmistakable presence of fire, police and ambulance vehicles in front of the house only aid that process. Is it better not to know if you can't help? (Let's call this hell, since it leaves you open to being blindsided at a very inconvenient time.) I don't think so, but others may disagree with me. Trying to assist, without the invitation is liable to get you fired or ostracized for not following clear instruction. (Being invited to help would be heaven in this scenario, BTW.)

At least she can pray for her student. That's something, to be sure. But we can also pray that the parents will allow her to help, and release her from purgatory.