On Pregnant Teens and Baby Showers — From my Facebook Wall

A few hours ago, I asked the following question on my Facebook wall:

Hypothetical for discussion: You are a pastor. In your church is a young girl age 15 who is very rebellious and doing her “own thing”. She ends up getting pregnant. Abortion is out of the question and she refuses to consider adoption, so she decides to parent. The kids in the youth department want to throw her a big baby shower on a Wednesday night as the due date approaches. As pastor, what do you do? Discuss among yourselves and no breaking the furniture when I’m out of the room.

Within less than 2 hours, well over 100 comments had been posted, arguments started, debate was had, some got upset, others got disgusted, some did the knee-jerk response of “look at these hypocrites” and “judgementalism is alive and well”, etc…  But hopefully EVERY ONE was required to think.  That’s what I do as a professor and having been a pastor, I will tell you that every pastor faces dilemmas like this one many times each year.  It’s a HARD job and someone is ALWAYS mad at you for any decision that you have to make.  Sometimes, it’s good to think of responses before they are presented.

So…at this point, I’m going to offer my thoughts.  No doubt, some will disagree with them and that’s OK.  But don’t just say “you’re wrong!”  And don’t you dare say something like “I feel…”.  As I say in class constantly, “I don’t give a rat’s behind what you feel.  Tell me what you THINK and WHY you think it.”  Preferably, build on Scripture and don’t twist it out of context.  You may be worn out by now and if so, that’s OK.  Please know it wasn’t my intention to drag up old wounds for some or to make anyone feel bad.  This is real life.  I teach graduate students Christian Leadership for Liberty University.  This is what I do for a living and because I love it.  Tough questions, tough choices, tough positions.  Hopefully, in the end, even if you disagree with my position, you won’t be upset with me because of my disposition.  Think Biblically above all else.

So here’s my reply….

I want to thank everyone for participating tonight.  I may be a sadist, but I enjoy exercises like this.  The unexamined life is not worth living according to one philosopher.  Those who have had me in a live-class setting in one of the colleges where I teach or have taught, know that throwing a question like this out into the middle of the class is how I often like to start a class or new section.  Most of us want simple, clear, black and white answers.  Better yet, many of us want someone else to make the tough decisions for us.  That doesn’t work in the real world.  We each have a responsibility to learn to think on our own and to think Biblically – not with just our hearts, but with our heads AND our hearts, but keeping Truth paramount.

As for the question I posed, many of you – if not most of you – were in my opinion grasping onto core Biblical principles including justice, grace, repentance, compassion, confrontation and mercy.  I’d give everyone a passing grade and I thought it was good to see some of you adding caveats and adjusting your perspective as the debate raged on.

I’ve had similar situations in every church and school with which I’ve been affiliated to the one I cited, but none just like this.  Some of the finest people I’ve ever known and that I love dearly made a mistake (both girls and guys) similar to the one of the hypothetical girl and they grew spiritually as they recovered from the consequences of their sin.  Today, the are sweet friends who are making a difference in the life of others.  Their life is not defined by a period of rebellion.  Indeed, their life — like all of ours should be — is a celebration of God’s grace.  Because whether or not they are obvious (like a pregnancy out of wedlock) or not as obvious (like being addicted to porn or alcohol or simply being a critical, bitter, self-righteous shrew) — we all have nasty, disgusting sins in our lives.

And yes,  getting pregnant out of wedlock (or simply having sex out of wedlock) is a sin.  Let’s not candy coat it.  We should not be surprised when humans…aka SINNERS, sin.  (Rom. 3:23, etc…)  I didn’t handle all of the situations perfectly as a pastor, though I tried to handle them sincerely and carefully.  Another note – pastors aren’t perfect and it is a mistake to hold them a standard of perfection OR have an insistence that they always agree with YOUR perspective all the time.  That isn’t going to happen and if you leave your church every time you disagree with something, you’ll be in a new church every week.

But here are my thoughts…

1.      1. The sin occurred while and because the girl was in rebellion.  This cannot be ignored.  This wasn’t a rape.  This was intentional.  Thus, sin has to be confronted.  While some will say that not every sin would be confronted – that is true.  We won’t and can’t know every single sin.  But this sin WAS known and it shouldn’t be ignored simply because we don’t “catch” all the sins.  We are only accountable for what we know.  But Matthew 18 and also Galatians 6 has a formula for confronting sin that begins with the personal visit and concludes as a last result as a corporate action.  The Bible warns us that rebellion is like witchcraft and sorcery – we should not ignore it.  So as soon as the sin was discovered, the process of confrontation that will hopefully lead to repentance and then to restoration needs to occur.  Without that, we start off incorrectly.

2.      2. In my opinion, baby showers and youth groups don’t mix.  That should have been a pretty easy one.  Teenagers can get married and when they do, they need to leave the youth group.  But unless they are married, teens shouldn’t be having sex and they shouldn’t be making babies.  So baby showers and youth groups just don’t mix.  There are some things that the youth need to leave to adults until they have attained sufficient maturity – counseling, marriages, being a deacon/elder and yes….Baby Showers.  If Baby Showers are necessary for anyone – single, married, young, whomever – let the older women of the church sponsor those.  It solves problems before they happen to have that as a policy or standard.

3.      3. Showers are celebrations by design.  I’ve never seen a somber shower.  There are games, refreshments, laughter, balloons, etc…  Offering a party in the middle of the Matthew 18 restoration policy sends the wrong signal and confuses the process.  It shouldn’t happen.  The attention should be on the spiritual healing that is necessary.  Her family should make sure she is getting prenatal care, is physically cared for, etc…  In the absence of a supportive family, then she should be assigned to a church family who should take her in and minister to her – providing that she is engaged in the restoration process.  In my opinion, it would be wrong to honor someone who is in the midst of recovering from a moral failure.  Her soul is more important than her feelings and how she perceives us and whether she is happy and excited.  Let’s focus soberly on the spiritual issues – that’s the foundation.  (Before you get angry and stop reading, let me say that I’m not done yet…hang in there and stay with me.)

4.       4. If she stays in rebellion, then the church and her leadership have no choice but to protect those who might be influenced by her on-going rebellion.  Failing to move toward repentance, she should be formally disciplined by the church ultimately leading to – as a last resort – an excommunication from fellowship.  At that point, the church has no additional obligation to her.  There are private charities and government assistance available to her and above all, her family is obligated to stay involved but also within their terms as the authority/parents.  Some rebellious teens separate themselves from their families intentionally.  Sometimes we have to let them as hard as that may be.  But by choosing to stay in rebellion, after a patient period of exhortation and appeal, she is the one who is walking away from the benefits of grace and support that a church can and should provide.  It is not the church rejecting her – she is rejecting God’s word.  We must see that.  We can’t let our hearts, sloppy agape or a need to be liked and affirmed to overrule truth.

5.       5. If she repents and desires restoration, then this is when grace and mercy and healing can flow and bless her and the church.  She should seek reconciliation first with God, then her family and then the church – all of whom were offended and impacted by sin.  Public sin needs to be dealt with publicly.  What “public” is might well be somewhat impacted by the size of the church also.  Small churches are quite different than mega-churches in terms of how news travels.

6.       6. A shower is for the mother – not the baby.  The baby does not know, nor does she care, if there is a party. So don’t try to make this about celebrating the baby.  We celebrate life – but we should do so wisely and appropriately.  But there are ways to help this young woman prepare for the costs and responsibilities of motherhood.  She needs a Godly mentor if her mother can’t or won’t provide that – so like they did in Titus, she needs to be ministered by an older lady who will love and train and teach her.  I believe, that at a time near the birth, it would then be perfectly acceptable to have some sort of care event at which time other Godly examples  of character and Biblical womanhood come together and break bread, present gifts and most of all – share wisdom.  This can be done in a joyful way without labeling it a “party”, but if it feels like a party, if there is rejoicing over grace and forgiveness and healing — then why not celebrate it?  It should drip with mercy and care and charity.  We rejoice in repentance.  We rejoice in forgiveness.  We rejoice in restoration and second chances.  But we don’t celebrate sin.  And we also guard the hearts of our young, single daughters.  They don’t need to be there.  She is now assuming the responsibilities of an adult.  Let the adults take the lead in ministering to her.

7.       7. Anyone else in the church can, and perhaps should, minister to her through providing resources and supplies.  This communicates love and reconciliation.  That might include her peers in the youth group.  But that should be a family matter.  Let them decide together what is the best response.  In the presence of repentance, we cannot Biblical refuse to help, forgive and restore fellowship.  If we fail to do so, then we are behaving unBiblically and it might be time for another Matthew 18 journey.

8.       8. Do the right thing regardless of politics.  Someone will always be upset.  There are people who are spiritually weak and immature and they will not agree.  Some will want more grace.  Some will want more punishment.  It is not the responsibility of the church to punish the sinner.  The church is to push for repentance, reconciliation and restoration.  God will take care of punishment.  Plus, sin always has consequences.  Both on the guilty and on the innocent.  In the absence of repentance and restoration, the integrity of the church must be guarded and the immature must be protected.  Thus, the unrepentant sinner must be put out.  It’s not an act of retribution.  It’s an act of protection for the church

9.       9. Finally, remember that your pastor and elders are humans, but they hold divinely assigned roles that must be honored.  We don’t have to agree.  We won’t give account to God for the decisions – they will.  It would be wrong to stir dissension, quit church, confront the pastor, etc… simply because we disagree.  If there is a Biblical issue – a CLEAR one – then there is a Biblical process for confronting an elder.  But you’d better be right and you’d better follow the Scripture.  Otherwise, you are quite wrong.  Acknowledge that some others will see it differently than you, but stay committed to Truth and the process.  Let God’s Word stand and let God be God.  Being a pastor is a heavy and solemn responsibility.  Pray for your pastors and elders.

So that’s my 2 cents.  Thanks to all of you who participated.  Feel free to continue the discussion in the comment section below.  If you aren’t a Facebook friend, feel free to friend me and go back and read the debate.  We’ll do this again sometime.

10 thoughts on “On Pregnant Teens and Baby Showers — From my Facebook Wall

  1. Debbie Snyder

    “2. But unless they are married, teens should be having sex and they shouldn’t be making babies.”
    “. . . remember that your pastor and elders are humans . . .”
    Ok, I’m assuming that you meant “teens SHOULDN’T be having sex”! But I think everything you said is right on track with what I wanted to say. You just make it sound much better. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Elaine Hill

    Pastor Dan, if you haven’t already, you should write a book for youth pastors. I enjoyed reading the debate on Facebook last night, so I was looking forward to your take this morning. I wasn’t disappointed. As Christians, often our decisions are based solely on emotion rather than Biblical truth…or we are guilty of taking scripture out of context to support our emotional position.

    Reply
  3. Alex Greco

    This is an interesting question.

    “And yes,  getting pregnant out of wedlock (or simply having sex out of wedlock) is a sin.”

    I completely agree, and to be clear, I would add to this that anything which artificially separates the unitive from the procreative goods/ends of conjugal love is a sin.

    I also agree that recognition of the sin committed, repentance, and reconciliation is of the utmost importance. If she fails to repent, then a disciplinary action should take place. If this leads to excommunication, then this is a further disciplinary action done out of mercy and love for the troubled soul as a medicinal measure to indicate the gravity of the offense and the necessity of repentance. However, the idea that the church owes no additional obligation of assistance to her post-excommunication seems to me to be an erroneous opinion, contrary to the teachings of Christ. Pushing someone who is in need of assistance off onto some private charity, or even worse government assistance, when you have the resources to help that person simply because they are not in communion with your church seems quite odd. Did Jesus say only to feed, clothe, visit, and shelter the Christian hungry, naked, sick and homeless?

    Our Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Who was the true loving neighbor to the man who feel amongst and was beaten by the robbers? It was the Samaritan. Jesus did not say that it was fine and good for the Samaritan to show charity to the Jew, but the Jews owed no obligation to a Samaritan who found himself in a similar situation (Luke 10:25-37). The commandment to love our neighbor does obligate the church to help the girl in need, even though they just excommunicated her. The obligation of charity is not an “in my house among my family alone” concept.

    You hinted at Socrates when you stated that the unexamined life is not worth living. For a little fun, I’d like to also point to another philosopher, Aristotle, and the classic four causes (material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and the final cause) as a way to explain what I believe a baby shower is about. You stated emphatically that a shower is about the mother, not the baby, and not to make this about celebrating the baby. I disagree. A shower is not just for the mother, but for the mother and the baby, and here is why:

    Material cause: There are balloons, refreshments, cake, etc., and there are also gifts whose purpose is to aid the rearing of the child. Each of the items listed above carry the theme of the existence of a baby. For example, if the sex of the baby is known, pink or blue balloons are used. The design of the cake draws attention to the baby. I’ll make the assumption that we wouldn’t see party hats and a cake with the Miami Dolphins logo with the inscription “1-7 is better than 0-8” written on the cake for a baby shower…that is unless the people attending the party were die-hard Dolphins fans, but even then, if it is a baby shower it would be seriously odd for the theme to exclude the existence of the baby.

    Formal cause: The integrating principle which makes this a baby shower as opposed to any other party, is that the guiding idea behind it is that there will be a birth. The form of the party is one that celebrates a baby. The anticipated birth is what makes a baby shower be what it is: a baby shower.

    The material and formal causes explain how something came to be.

    Efficient cause: In this case, the church would be the efficient cause of the shower. Those members who plan and execute the shower are the agents who collectively bring the shower to fruition.

    Final cause: One meaning of final cause is the end product of the efficient cause. We can identify this cause by determining the purpose of the activity engaged in by the agents representing the efficient cause. What is the goal of the agents? What is the goal of the shower? As Aristotle would ask, what is it that for the sake of which the shower was done?

    In considering these four causes, I conclude that the shower is not done for the sake of the sin which brought the child into existence. It is not a “let’s celebrate pre-marital sex party” with balloons, cake, and banners highlighting pre-marital sex. We have already seen that the material and formal cause, the intrinsic causes which inhere in the shower itself, are structured and correspond to the child and not the sinful cause of the child. In the same manner, a shower given for the anticipated birth of a child brought into existence through the heinous act of rape would not be given as a celebration for the act of rape, but for the child whose life we value and celebrate.

    In considering the four causes, I will also conclude that the shower is not done for the sake of the mother and not the baby as you concluded. We typically do not give baby showers for those extremely sad occasions of miscarriages, yet the woman has still become a mother due to the conception. This reinforces my point that a shower is given in celebration of a baby, and not simply motherhood.

    My argument is two-fold: A church is not obligated to give a shower, but it is obligated to help where help is needed, regardless of the presence of repentance. If a shower is given, then the shower is given to celebrate the birth of a child, not the act which brought the child’s existence into being.

    The immature must be protected, but this is also done through sound education. If they suffer from invincible ignorance to the extent that they cannot understand the principles described above once explained to them, then the likelihood of the shower becoming a stumbling block for their unification with God becomes progressively mitigated.

    A future moral dilemma worth considering in one of your classes would be whether or not frozen embryo adoption, as a means of rescuing frozen embryos, would be a moral act. Discussing this dilemma helps to identify with greater clarity the marital state and conjugal love.

    Reply
  4. Dan Burrell Post author

    Alex….I should have been more articulate on my explanation of “no obligation to offer further assistance.” Let me try here. Scripture seems to indicate that we have an OBLIGATION to take care of the “household of faith” — in deed, there is even a “preference” to help them first and foremost if I exegete the passage correctly. Conversely, Jesus did not provide the needs requested by ever impoverished or ill person that came His way — noting that “the poor we will always have with us.” However, if there is an “obligation” to help those within the church, there is an OPPORTUNITY to help those outside of the church. While we can’t reach them all, we can help those whom we find in the ditch on our roads and that gives opportunity for us to minister to their souls as well. Indeed, I would argue that we should not care for ones physical needs if we do not care for their spiritual needs. Conversely, carring for physical needs opens the door to discuss spiritual needs. I believe this and practice it — just did it within the last hour actually with a young homeless couple that I hope to minister to spiritually AND physically. So please forgive me the fact that my inarticulate and rushed wording left the wrong impression about caring for those outside of the church.

    Reply
  5. Alex Greco

    Dan,

    I agree with most of what you are saying here, except it still seems to me that you are arguing that the obligation of charity is only due to someone who is in christian fellowship with you. Those who do not have religious ties with you can be shown charity, not out of an obligation to show charity to them as human beings, but out of an opportunity (whatever that means isn’t very clear to me). If I am understanding this correctly, then I disagree.

    I am not rejecting the reality that there are prior obligations one owes to certain people before others. However, having prior obligations does not nullify any further obligations we might have. If someone approaches you in need, and you have the ability to help them, you are obligated to do so regardless of their religious status. Your moral obigation to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless does not end with their lack of faith in Christ. Again, stating that we have a moral obligation to help others regardless of their faith does not ignore the reality that we do have prior obligations as well. This would apply also to those in christian fellowship with you. If one of them were in need, you have a prior obligation to you children first, yet this prior obligation does not completely nullify the obligation you have to your brother in Christ.

    I’m not sure if you disagree, or if I am misrepresenting your view.

    Reply
  6. Jeremy

    A very hard subject to bring up and well said. I really had to think about this one. I agree too, you need to right a book.

    Reply

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