First Rule of Youth Ministry, Tell the Parents Something


I am all for persecuted church lessons and helping teenagers understand the world around them and what Christians go through in persecuted areas. However, I might tell the parents if we were going to stage a kidnapping and interrogation to give them a mock experience.

A southeastern Pennsylvania church subjected members of a youth group to a mock kidnapping and interrogations without telling them it was staged, and the outraged mother of one 14-year-old girl has filed a complaint with police.

The pastor of the Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middletown said the church is “so saddened” that the girl was traumatized at the Wednesday evening youth meeting.

But the pastor, John Lanza, said Friday there have been emails of support from other students at the church, about 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg, because the intent was to prepare them for what they might encounter as missionaries. He didn’t disclose the names of those involved but said the mock kidnappers included an off-duty police officer and a retired Army captain.

“It was a youth event, to illustrate what others have encountered on a regular basis,” he said, adding that the focus of the lesson was “the persecuted church” in other countries.

Lanza said there were about 17 students at the meeting and the mock kidnappers covered the students’ heads, put them in a van and interrogated them. Neither the students nor their parents were told about the raid beforehand, he said, though it was discussed with the parents of one youth who might have health issues.

Lanza said he “would love to” apologize to the girl and her mother but feels he can’t until the police investigation is done. He said the church wants to keep doing the program but would make changes.

“I would find a way that we could continue to keep the shock value,” he said, “but I would find a way to inform the parents (beforehand).”

More on this lapse of judgement if you want to know more.

So take some lessons from this unfortunate lapse in judgement and practice. Keep your parents informed of the actions of the youth ministry. Or you might actually find yourself accused of doing something criminal.

I suggest getting to know the persecuted church, it does exist. However, if you want to do some lessons on them, let the parents know first.




About Gavin Richardson

guy, husband, dad, church communicator, youth pastor, youth ministry trainer, dog owner, social media participant anthropologist, writer, speaker, internet community builder, bill payer, bit monastic, co-creator of but not necessarily in that order


  1. Whoa! This is so wrong on so many levels…no one knew ahead of time? A real gun? Bags over their heads? Forced them into a van? Interrogation? And none of the adults involved thought this was a bad idea? Personally I would never take it to this level…there are other ways to show persecution. I totally agree that the parents should have know about it. I have a great relationship with my pastor but it wouldn’t stay that way after something like this…and I wouldn’t blame him one bit! But wait, the Pastor knew and played a part? Amazing! Thanks for sharing Gavo!

  2. Teresa Shaw says:

    When I was a teen our church sponsored a youth gathering and we had some of our guys bust in and take over the service in military uniforms. The church was full and the noise they made coming in suprised the group but once they saw their ages they just followed along. I repeated the exercise when I was teaching confirmation. I had a policeman very loudly come in and arrest me as I was teaching. It took a minute for the youth to recognize him as a member of the church but it got the point across as my daughter yelled “let my mom go” ! Times have changed and kids see this happen in reality on television. This was not a smart move and too radical I think. Anytime you work with youth everyone needs to know what is going on, for the protection of the youth and the leaders. It’s sad but true.

  3. Dear Gavin. Tell the parents something??? You can’t give permission to a third party to commit a felony on your child. This is a cult. First physical abuse followed by sexual abuse. They are the perfect blueprint for a budding cult.

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