Mama Caro

Stephanie "Mama" Caro's humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. She is Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects and author of "Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches" and "99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker." Her next book, “Ten Solutions (to Ten Common Mistakes Small Churches Make)” comes out in 2015. Stephanie is a contributing author to several ministry resources in addition to her regular column “Smaller Church Youth Ministry” in Group Magazine. Stephanie and her husband, Steve, live in Houston, TX.

SPOILER ALERT: There are politics in the church, people. Ugly, hurtful, name-calling politics. Surprised? I knew you weren’t.

Since there are less people and circles of influence, multiple sides on an issue within the small church are more visible. Its harder to fly under the radar on a divisive subject when there are less places to hide.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to discuss three mucky mud-puddles common to working in a small church. One definition of such political struggles? “When the opinions from a few begin to shout over the ‘let’s just roll with things’ voices of the majority.” Maybe if we think through these three major political traps, we can be ready for when they arise and avoid at least some of the pain, heartache, and missed youth ministry opportunities.


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Does this uthmin story sound familiar? (A real story from a real youth worker) (and it isn’t me)

“I planned a great youth Christmas party. But here’s what happened instead: 

  • 1st problem: One key student couldn’t attend on that night AFTER the date have been chosen and all the invitations had been sent. No big deal, right? 
  • 2nd problem: That youth happened to be from THE family in the church. You know the one I mean: the one with 4 generations still attending the church. They’ve been members a looooong time. 
  • 3rd problem: That kid’s mom calls to demand the date be changed so her child could attend. ‘After all, we ARE pillars of the church (and big money givers to that nice new youth van).’
  • 4th problem: When I explained I couldn’t change the date because arrangements have been set in motion at someone’s house…that one student planned their own Christmas thing for that same night (suddenly available!), inviting a number of students from the group. Only 3 people showed up to the scheduled youth group party, hurting the other host family. A war ensued between the two families and I (the youth leader) was stuck in the middle.”  


You tell me. Post your comments/ideas/thoughts. We’re going to land on this church politics topic for a bit. Maybe together we’ll figure it out.


PS-the other two political pitfalls: “Fear of Change” and “Inward/Outward”


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  • Holly says:

    I sure don’t have any advice. That is a SUCKY situation, and I would hope that the Youth Pastor would be able to ask the Pastor to step in and bring some calm to the crazy. It’s stuff like this that really frustrates me about ministry. Mostly because I see Christians acting like bigger jerks than the “Joe Schmoe” of society. So, your kid can’t come? Maybe they should have re-prioritized their calendar instead of thinking everyone needs to rearrange theirs for you. And in the scheme of things, its only a party. You missed it? So what?!?!

  • Kraig Bishop says:

    We try to avoid accepting donations that are for specific purchases. All too often people who give for something specific(i.e. the church van) give with strings attached. If they will always hold it over your head or bring it up in times like described here, it’s not the kind of gift we need. In fact at that point it’s not a gift at all. It’s a power-play. Gifts are freely given. I don’t know the background, but my guess from reading this story is that the Youth Minister does a good job of scheduling enough in advance and getting the info to the students and their families. Some families(parents especially) will never respect that enough to pay attention, but won’t hesitate to complain once they realize they have a conflict. Here’s the key for me(and it’s a tough one). I’ll make a change when I can to allow more students to be at an event. I will not, however, under any circumstances, cater to a parent who acts this way. No one person in the church and no one family in the church is any more important than anyone else. If you do what they push you to do once, you’ll always feel like you have to. (*Note:Only try this with a Senior Pastor and leadership who agree with that stance.)

  • nathan says:

    definitely sounds like something deeper is going on. i feel like a coffee/lunch conflict resolution meeting should have happened at step 3, before the party…gotta go the matthew 18:15-17 route in all conflicts (and remember how Jesus treated tax collectors). i’d also try to return the van money as soon as possible, it obviously wasn’t a gift.

  • Robert says:

    Just happened onto this article while doing research and so my comment may no longer be pertinent. I have just one question to ask: Where is God in this “I planned a great youth Christmas party.” ?

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