For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him, as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Behavioral Principles and Expectations
It is our joy to be in community with young people here at Bethlehem. Whether young children or twelfth-grade young adults, we hope they will be stirred up to love Jesus and spread his fame.
Recognizing that godly character is a result of a heart transformed by the gospel, our aim is first to introduce children and young people to Jesus Christ. However, both regenerate and unregenerate children should be instructed in righteousness and held to biblical principles of conduct. In this document you will find broad principles regarding conduct as well as specific expectations. We hope these will assist us as the church joins parents to cultivate godly behavior in our young people.
- Bethlehem is a big family. As such, boundaries/rules are important. They help us to promote genuine care for the interests of the common family good (Romans 12:10, 18; Galatians 5:13–15; Philippians 2:4).
- Requiring obedience from children in conformity with God’s will confronts them with the meaning of sin in relation to God, the nature of their own depravity, and their need for inner transformation by the power of grace through the gospel of Christ.
- While outward conformity to various rules might be possible, true obedience is a gift of God flowing from a heart that worships Jesus (Luke 6:44–45; John 14:15). Please join us in praying for these soft hearts.
- Because love for Jesus entails obedience to his commands (Matthew 28:20), discipline will be an important part of nurturing the faith of our young people (Proverbs 3:11–12). Teaching our young people to obey God-given authorities can help them to obey Christ and bend their wills to His (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20; Hebrews 13:7, 17).
- Our behavioral standards at Bethlehem are high, yet we’re also committed to understanding. Being destined for salvation, God’s people are urged to admonish the idle while also encouraging the fainthearted and helping the weak. So while stern rebuke might be necessary in one situation, gentle help or encouragement might be more appropriate in another (1 Thessalonians 5:9–14).
- Bethlehem staff and volunteers are eager to partner with parents to promote godly behavior in our young people, yet, parents themselves are primarily responsible for that discipleship (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). So while volunteers will be expected to ensure order and amiable behavior in the classroom, they may direct an unresponsive young person to his parents for discipline if necessary.
- Discipleship is a community project (Hebrews 3:13; 10:24).Bethlehem is glad to stand with parents to encourage them in their ministry of parenting. Some young people will struggle with behavior concerns more than others. We also recognize that some children have special needs. Family Discipleship is eager to pray, strategize, and work with parents in these matters.
General Expectations for Children, Youth, and Young Adults at Bethlehem
The following expectations are simple expressions of thanks for God’s good gifts. Although specific expectations will vary depending on the age of the young person, the activity, and the location of the activity, most expectations will fall under one of the following.
- Respect for Physical Surroundings: Church gathering spaces and equipment (whether owned, rented, or borrowed) should be treated with respect and used as their designs intend.
- Respect for Adults: Honor for adults in the church should be reflected in attitudes, speech, and behavior. Addressing adults with titles like “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Miss” is one example of this.
- Respect for Others: Young people will be guided to consider others more significant than themselves and to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:2–4; Colossians 3:12–17).
- Respect for Themselves: Young people will be encouraged to act in ways that do not put their bodies or souls at risk.
A Word about Correction
If correction or discipline becomes necessary, we encourage positive, immediate, and consistent responses from our parents and volunteers. We want to see godly behavior affirmed and sinful behavior discouraged before it escalates. While volunteers may initiate correction, we ask that parents take the primary role in correcting their child if they are present.
If a parent is not present, a volunteer may respond with a warning in a spirit of gentleness, followed by appropriate correction if necessary (Galatians 6:1). If a sinful behavior or attitude persists, a volunteer will appeal to the leadership involving the parents when needed.
If needed, volunteers are permitted to gently restrain a young person to keep him from hurting himself or another. Any other physical form of correction is unacceptable in the classroom or other organized Bethlehem activity.
A Word about Personal Electronic Devices
We recognize that personal electronic devices such as cell phones, iPods, and other gadgets can at times aid Bible study. However, when used in the classroom or during other organized child, youth, or young adult activities at Bethlehem, they typically distract from our discipleship goals. For this reason, we discourage their use in these settings.
A Word about Sr High Students
We view our Sr High students no longer as children but as young adults, apprentices being equipped for mature Christian adulthood. We prompt our young adults to bear the mantle of contributor as opposed to mere consumer in church and society. Any correction needed for our young adults reflects this view.