Pranking Will Damage Your Ministry

I don’t understand why students pranking each other seems to be part of every student ministry at one point or another. In my own student ministries it has tried to rear its ugly head, and from talking with many student pastors over the years, I know you deal with this issue as well.

As the leader of your student ministry, I want to plead with you to never be involved in pulling a prank, or helping students pull off pranks on each other. Make it clear to the volunteer leaders in your ministry that this is something you will not tolerate from them as well. Be clear with your students that there is a “no tolerance” policy on this issue. This isn’t a “kids aren’t as tough as they used to be” issue. It is a body of Christ issue and one that is ultimately connected to the gospel.

For those of you that are still questioning this strong stance, here are four ways that pranking will damage your ministry:

It always escalates.

What seemed like a “harmless prank” in the beginning never ends that way. The person on the receiving end will always want to seek revenge and the prank war ensues. You know what happens with this kind of war. Each person tries to one-up the previous prank and this process won’t stop until real damage is done. As an example, I would point you to the prank war that took place in one of the churches I served that began with a few “harmless” toilet paper rolls and ended with a fire extinguisher discharged inside of another student’s car. The car was totaled. The police were involved. It was a mess. There is no such thing as a “harmless prank” because it always escalates.

It damages relationships.

Even if a prank war begins between friends, at some point it will turn personal. Remember, these are teenagers you are dealing with. Yes, they are capable of maturity beyond what many expect of them, but there are still emotions, identity struggles, and hormones involved. The mix of these three does not build a healthy environment for pranking. As a result, relationships are damaged and people within the ministry take sides—including students, younger siblings if they have any, adult leaders, and parents.

You have to guard against relationships within the body of Christ on a regular basis anyway. Why add unnecessary distraction? I think the principle Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 10:23 and surrounding can guide us here. What does a prank help? How does it benefit the ministry? It doesn’t. There’s no such thing as a “harmless prank” because it damages relationships.

It hurts your ministry’s reputation.

The relationships that are affected by the prank war will not stay inside your ministry. It will eventually be something that spreads to the school campus and neighborhoods of those involved through other friendships and gossip. True or not, the student ministry will run the risk of developing a reputation of infighting and cliques. Ultimately, this is a gospel issue. Two passages are helpful here: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 where Paul describes us as the aroma of Christ and John 13:35, the famous “people will know you are My disciples if you love one another” passage. There’s no such thing as a “harmless prank” because it can hurt your ministry’s gospel witness.

It causes you unnecessary headaches.

As a student pastor or student ministry leader you know the headaches that come along for the ride. To be more effective as a leader, you need get rid of headaches. You need to anticipate possible problems and put processes in place in advance to address those problems. The discipleship of students and families through your ministry is too important to waste your time dealing with added headaches. There’s no such thing as a “harmless prank” because it causes you headaches and keeps you from doing the work that really matters.

There’s nothing good that can come from pranking in your ministry. Choose to take a strong stance. Choose to spend your time and your students’ time on something that matters. The gospel matters. The discipling of students and their families matter. There’s no such thing as a “harmless prank.”

6 Comments

  1. Well said Ben! Pranks not only damage relationships, they also overshadow any spiritual victories and growth that may have occurred during an event.

  2. Steve Yescott 03/11 at 12:05 pm Reply

    I agree with the idea of no pranks. I ask my volunteer leaders to not be involved in pranks and share with them similar reasons that you shared. I am a little less rigid with the students involvement in pranks. I am not sure exactly what you mean by “no tolerance” for the students. I discourage pranks, and ask my leaders to actively discourage if they hear of pranks that are being planned, but I would just encourage people to be loving to a student that might have pulled some sort of a prank. A prank is not on the same level as a “no tolerance” policy for drugs, alcohol, and weapons. I tend to have as few stated “no tolerance” rules as possible. But for an overall idea, I agree that it does not create a safe atmosphere.

    • bentrueblood 03/11 at 5:50 pm Reply

      Steve, thank you for the comment. For me, pranks are something I don’t want around my ministry at all because of the reasons outlined above. I have seen (and heard of) pranks between students damage relationships and ultimately the health of the ministry many times. For me, it just isn’t worth it and building a culture where pranks aren’t the norm will save a lot of heartache in the long run.

      I totally agree that a loving response is needed for a student that decides to pull a prank, but I would say a loving response would be necessary for the “no tolerance” issues that you listed above as well.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Ben,

    Thanks for your thoughts on this matter. Upon entering ministry I had this same held belief (maybe it had something to do with a huge prank that some of my students pulled on me). However, pranking is not an ongoing thing with us but it is always a topic during our CIY – Move summer conference. I set down the rules that pranks can not damage anything or anyone’s stuff, you have to be willing to clean up any mess that you create, and if you are going to do something be creative (shaving cream on a person’s door – not funny, duct taping someone’s bed to the ceiling – pretty funny). If I feel like they are starting to get out of hand I do shut it down and explain why (I’ve only had to do that once or twice). Also, I know some of my students that are more sensitive to pranking than others and I tell my students to not prank those students. The students pull pranks on me probably more than the other students. I have learned quite a bit on taking pranks in stride over the years. Last year they painted my toenails a nice shade of pink while I was sleeping. So the next day I decided to put my flip flops on and sport the paint job the whole day. My kids thought it was so great. If I had gotten angry and had the strict no tolerance viewpoint, it would have killed the spirit and painted (no pun intended) me as rigid and no fun (a perspective that I constantly battle as the main rule enforcer). All in all, I allow pranking, but its all within guidelines and can be shut down at anytime I feel is necessary with total understanding from my students. Just like many things, allowed free reign can be destructive and damaging, but within adult guided boundaries, can be a fun, creative, and bonding experience.

    • bentrueblood 03/12 at 10:28 am Reply

      Scott,
      Thank you for reading! There are definitely different viewpoints on this topic, which makes for a good and healthy discussion. Personally, I have found that pranking with rules and boundaries becomes something that needs to be constantly monitored and approved or lovingly shut down when it goes to far. For me, it is something that just caused unnecessary headaches that I didn’t feel worth the time. We were always able to find other ways to create that fun and creative bonding experience.

      As I said though, there are different views on this topic that make for good conversation. I really appreciate your viewpoint on the topic and your attention to make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand. Thanks for being willing to share, and I hope to see you back on the blog again in the future!

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