I don’t understand why students pranking each other seems to be part of every student ministry at one point or another. In my own student ministries it has tried to rear its ugly head, and from talking with many student pastors over the years, I know you deal with this issue as well.
As the leader of your student ministry, I want to plead with you to never be involved in pulling a prank, or helping students pull off pranks on each other. Make it clear to the volunteer leaders in your ministry that this is something you will not tolerate from them as well. Be clear with your students that there is a “no tolerance” policy on this issue. This isn’t a “kids aren’t as tough as they used to be” issue. It is a body of Christ issue and one that is ultimately connected to the gospel.
For those of you that are still questioning this strong stance, here are four ways that pranking will damage your ministry:
IT ALWAYS ESCALATES.
What seemed like a “harmless prank” in the beginning never ends that way. The person on the receiving end will always want to seek revenge and the prank war ensues. You know what happens with this kind of war. Each person tries to one-up the previous prank and this process won’t stop until real damage is done. As an example, I would point you to the prank war that took place in one of the churches I served that began with a few “harmless” toilet paper rolls and ended with a fire extinguisher discharged inside of another student’s car. The car was totaled. The police were involved. It was a mess. There is no such thing as a “harmless prank” because it always escalates.
IT DAMAGES RELATIONSHIPS.
Even if a prank war begins between friends, at some point it will turn personal. Remember, these are teenagers you are dealing with. Yes, they are capable of maturity beyond what many expect of them, but there are still emotions, identity struggles, and hormones involved. The mix of these three does not build a healthy environment for pranking. As a result, relationships are damaged and people within the ministry take sides—including students, younger siblings if they have any, adult leaders, and parents.
You have to guard against relationships within the body of Christ on a regular basis anyway. Why add unnecessary distraction? I think the principle Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 10:23 and surrounding can guide us here. What does a prank help? How does it benefit the ministry? It doesn’t. There’s no such thing as a “harmless prank” because it damages relationships.
IT HURTS YOUR MINISTRY’S REPUTATION.
The relationships that are affected by the prank war will not stay inside your ministry. It will eventually be something that spreads to the school campus and neighborhoods of those involved through other friendships and gossip. True or not, the student ministry will run the risk of developing a reputation of infighting and cliques. Ultimately, this is a gospel issue. Two passages are helpful here: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 where Paul describes us as the aroma of Christ and John 13:35, the famous “people will know you are My disciples if you love one another” passage. There’s no such thing as a “harmless prank” because it can hurt your ministry’s gospel witness.
IT CAUSES YOU UNNECESSARY HEADACHES.
As a student pastor or student ministry leader you know the headaches that come along for the ride. To be more effective as a leader, you need get rid of headaches. You need to anticipate possible problems and put processes in place in advance to address those problems. The discipleship of students and families through your ministry is too important to waste your time dealing with added headaches. There’s no such thing as a “harmless prank” because it causes you headaches and keeps you from doing the work that really matters.
There’s nothing good that can come from pranking in your ministry. Choose to take a strong stance. Choose to spend your time and your students’ time on something that matters. The gospel matters. The discipling of students and their families matter. There’s no such thing as a “harmless prank.”