Some topics are easy to write about. Others make you question yourself and your actions. Sarcasm is a tough topic for me. It is difficult to talk about sarcasm, because I have struggled with it for such a long time. I mulled over this topic in my head for a while, and I almost didn’t write this because of my own struggles with the issue. The more I examined myself, the more I realized that I was constantly using sarcasm to mask the insecurities I had as a leader. I want to share a couple of different reasons for why I believe we use sarcasm in student ministry.
We are avoiding the tough conversations
I believe that we throw sarcasm at students all the time when they are not living up to what we expect them to. We are nervous about them getting upset or are scared that they may not attend the student ministry ever again. To avoid this, we make jokes that are not really jokes. We take small jabs at how students are living instead of just being there for them. I’ve made comments such as: “You’re letting God down”, or “Do you think Jesus would like the way you’re living?” We try our best to pass off such comments as jokes, but I’m afraid many students do not appreciate our sarcasm. In today’s culture, students need someone who will be by their sides even when they mess up. They need someone who will sit down beside them and have the tough conversations. I’ve recently asked myself, “How many lives in our ministry have changed because of sarcasm”? I’m afraid that number is zero.
We are scared of losing students to another church
Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe we’ve all had insecurities from time to time. The church down the street starts attracting students, and we start getting nervous. Instead of praying and trusting God, we make sarcastic comments about the church or their student ministry. I have a hard time believing that anything good will ever come from using sarcastic remarks when describing another church. We are on the same team. If churches are not working together, what kind of message does this send to the rest of the world? That church may worship differently, reach people differently, or even do student ministry differently. Instead of using sarcasm to tear them down, we should be praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The word sarcasm comes from the Greek word, sarkasmos. The word means “to tear flesh, to gnash the teeth, or to speak bitterly”. Look at the definition again, and think about it for just a moment. Do you see anything positive? There is nothing positive about that definition. There is not much positive when we use sarcasm as well. We may use it to hide things that we struggle with as leaders. Students need us to be real with them, and they need us to have tough conversations with them. Students also need to see us building up other churches and leaders, instead of tearing them down with sarcasm.
The reality is that we probably all have some insecurities as leaders. We just have to find the right ways to deal with them in the context of our own ministries. Personally, I think we grow most as leaders when we work through any of those insecurities we may have. God has gifted you and called you to be the leader in your ministry. You are called by the Creator of the universe to share the message of Christ. These truths alone should show us that we do not need to hide our insecurities behind sarcasm.
Sarcasm is still a struggle for me. As leaders, we must take into consideration the negative impacts it can have on our ministries. The book of Ephesians says it best; let us use our words to build others up, instead of tearing them down.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up…” (Ephesians 4:29)
About the Author: CJ Smith
C.J. has been in student ministry for 9 years and in my current position for over 6 years. Currently C.J. is serving as Student Pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Rockingham, NC. He has been married to his wife, Amber, since May of 2010. They are huge Tennessee Volunteer fans and have a four year old son named Neylan. He am a sports junkie who loves students!