It’s not uncommon for students to experience new levels of freedom in a school of supernatural ministry environment, and it’s not uncommon for some students to take their freedom a little too far. It’s in these moments when school leaders can be tempted to exercise control to ensure the students are not hurting themselves, the school, and the school leaders. However, control isn’t the answer.
One of the core values at BSSM is that we are free and responsible. This means that while all things are permissible, not all things are beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23) and that we manage our freedom out of honor and love for one another. We have found that while it’s important to teach students about their freedom, it’s equally, or even more, important, to teach them about their responsibility to one another. In order to teach students about our freedom and responsibilities, we have to understand it ourselves.
We Were Made for Freedom
Romans 7 describes our freedom. Only people who are alive are subject to the law, and we have died with Christ. But we live a new kind of life, one that causes us to serve in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” It’s easy to assume that the word “freedom” in this instance means something along the lines of serving Christ or doing good, but the actual definition of the word “freedom” here is “to do as one pleases.” That means that Christ has set us free to do whatever we want.
From the beginning, man was given a choice, eat the fruit or to not eat the fruit. God values our freedom so much that He does not put any kinds of limitations on that freedom, despite the cost of His Son’s life. In Culture of Honor, Danny Silk says, “Freedom causes our personal responsibility to rise to the surface. We either rise with it, or lose our freedom. The only way to cultivate freedom is through experiencing and learning how to handle an increasing number of options.” We have the option to honor and love one another in our choices or not to.
Galatians is a reminder that while we are not under the law, we are still obligated to love. Later in Galatians 5, Paul says, “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (verse 13). This is the crux of our freedom: that while we are free, our freedom is best expressed by serving one another in love.
We Were Made for Honor
In Romans 14, Paul talks about honoring each other’s decisions and not being a stumbling block for one another. I like to call this the “lowest common denominator.” In other words, if someone I love does not do something I think is okay to do, I don’t do that particular thing around them. I choose to honor that person and love them in their decisions.
Jesus said that we would be known by our love for one another. This means we put ourselves aside and put each other before ourselves. This can be frustrating, especially if someone is not living in freedom and honor, but it shows the world our freedom when we can choose to honor and love each other despite our differences.
“Environments of freedom, responsibility and empowerment enable people to live holy, healthy, bold, creative lives.” Dann Farrelly, Kingdom Culture
The best way to impart a culture is to demonstrate it through your leadership team. By allowing your team to demonstrate their freedom and responsibility, your students will learn the same behavior. Students become who they see. Giving your staff freedom can look like allowing them to have different thoughts about certain topics, giving them freedom to travel on different ministry trips, and encouraging different pastoral styles. The kingdom is diverse, and displaying this diversity in your environment will allow freedom to reign.
Cleaning Up Messes
You will run into students who are not choosing to honor and love others. In these cases, confrontation is necessary, but the confrontation must be full of questions. It’s important to try to understand the heart behind someone’s actions before making accusations. If a student has made a “mess” with their freedom, sit down with them and ask them questions to understand their heart. Some great questions to ask to get to the heart of a matter are:
- Why are we meeting? At least according to your understanding.
- What’s up?
- What would you like to talk about?
- Is there something I can help you with?
- What about __________?
- Could it be __________?
- What do you think about __________?
- What have you tried before?
- Has there been anything that has helped before?
- What are you willing to try?
- So you’re telling me that when __________ you __________?
There are hundreds of way to ask questions to identify the problems and for them to own their own problem. Don’t be afraid to ask students what they value, and if they were or are willing to violate those values for the moment of unrestricted freedom. Remind students that we allow love and by consequence, freedom, to rule our hearts, not shame, fear, and control.
Freedom is not scary unless you make it scary. The Lord has given us the ultimate freedom: the freedom of choice. We choose to follow Him. We choose to serve Him. We choose to love Him and love others. We choose to honor others. We can also choose not to do these things. But that’s the beauty of freedom: choice. Trust that the Lord is speaking to your students to make the right choices. Trust that the Holy Spirit is bearing witness that we are children of God, and will prompt us to act like sons and daughters. Trust that the value you are trying to teach your students will overrule the possibility of rules discouraging them.
We bless you with grace as you teach your students about the freedom Christ has bought for us!