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Why you need to explain the ‘why’ of rules

My almost four-year old son is in the why-phase. Whenever I say something, his standard reaction is ‘Why?’. Why do I need to be in the car seat? Why do I need to to go to bed? Why does daddy get five meat balls and I only get two? Why can’t I take rabbit (his favorite stuffed animal) to Kindergarten? Why won’t you buy me that toy?

It’s sometimes annoying, it’s requires patience, but it’s also incredibly challenging. He has managed to make me think about the ‘why’ of things more than I have ever done before. And the funny thing is that when I take the time to explain the ‘why’ of things to him in a way that he can understand, he is often satisfied with the answer. He accepts rules much easier if we explain the ‘why’ of the rule to him.

In youth ministry, it’s really not that much different. When we take the time to not only tell the rules, but explain the why, teens accept the rules much faster. Research supports this by the way.

Explaining the ‘why’ of rules leads to an easier acceptance. But that’s not the only reason you should take the time and effort to explain the why. The second reason is that it’s important that youth understands that there’s a reason for them at all and that that reason is usually love. Too often in Christianity we lay down rules without showing that there’s a reason for them at all.

Take the whole ‘no sex before marriage rule’, I’ve heard that more times than I can count as a teenager…but seldom was the ‘why’ explained. They just said it was a sin, but never explained why it was a sin. It seemed to me like God had created to whole concept of sex to give us pleasure, so why was having sex a sin? Only much later did I grasp the truth that God wants us to save sex for our marriages because He loves us, because He wants the very, very best for us.

The rules mean nothing outside of the relationship and that’s a truth we need to show our youth in every possible way. That means that we need to explain the ‘why’ of our rules in relational terms as well.

Let me give an example: let’s say you have a small group rule rule that says that members should respect each other’s opinions and religious viewpoints. Why not explain the relational rationale behind it? The rule of respecting each other’s opinions is a way of showing the other you love them.  Love is among many other things, expressed by showing respect for someone else’s opinion, especially when they differ from yours. In the same way, God has given us rules that show His love for us, or that are meant to show our love for each other. After all, loving God above all else and loving others like we love ourselves is the biggest commandment God gave us.

Do you take the time and the effort to explain the why of rules? What do you think of the concept of explaining rules in relational terms?

If you want to know more about youth group rules, check out the ebook I wrote on this topic. It’s free if you sign up for my weekly newsletter, which brings the best youth ministry posts and resources into you inbox. If you are a subscriber already and didn’t get the ebook, just comment with a legit email address and I’ll send you the ebook for free!

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0 thoughts on “Why you need to explain the ‘why’ of rules

  1. […] automatically understand the reason behind certain rules, so make sure to explain it to them. If they know the ‘why’ of rules, they’re far more likely to keep them. You may think that it’s perfectly clear why […]

  2. […] third aspect and one that I’ve written about before is the importance of explaining the why of the rules. Researchers discovered that if the rules were explained to the teens in a way that made sense to […]

  3. […] Banning PDA is a very legalistic approach. It is saying some PDA is bad, so all PDA is banned. This all-or-nothing approach is rarely the best option, and is focused on behavior modification rather than life transformation. If you choose this approach, I implore you to explain the WHY behind the rule every time you enforce it. (Check out this post from Rachel Blom about why you need to explain the ‘why’ of rules.) […]

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