When I was 22 I became a pastor. I was put in charge of 23 hygenically challenged, yet hilarious, middle schoolers. I had great affection for all but two of those kids, and all but two of those kids loved me back better than I loved them. It was a tremendous responsibility, a responsibility that I recognized also came with authority and privilege.
Those kids would do anything I asked them, and because of the life change that Jesus brought to those kid’s lives, their parents were also willing to do nearly anything for me. I knew then that only a cretin would take advantage of that situation, but I had also watched a lot of “frogs” boil themselves “in the kettle” of authority over time. I didn’t want to be the guy that who woke up one day and realized that he was a self-centered prig who not only ordered his life according to his own preferences, but also expected those around him to accommodate those preferences as well.
My problem was that I didn’t know how to prevent this slow transformation over time. I knew that I should be vigilant, but vigilant about what? Then, by a stroke of providence, I attended a Youth Specialties conference on student ministries. While I was there I attended a session where a wise man gave me the information that I was missing. It was 14 years ago, and If I could remember his name, I’d give him credit for saying this:
“Don’t do things for people that they can or should be doing for themselves,
and don’t ever ask them to do the same for you.
Instead, do things WITH people,
and ask them to do things with you.”