Something that didn’t exist when I was in high school is the “promposal.” Young men and women are coming up with creative (and video recorded, of course) ways of asking their potential dates to go with them to various school dances and events. My son’s favorite so far is a boy last week who dressed up in a gorilla suit holding a sign that said, “Don’t shoot me down like they did to my boy, Harambe.” In case you haven’t been keeping up on current events, Harambe is the gorilla at a Cleveland zoo that was shot recently when a little boy fell into his habitat and he started whipping the kid around like a rag doll.
Here’s my problem with the “promposal” (which I will never say outloud to high school kids because the last thing they need is another crusty old man shooting down their cultural traditions--pun intended)...it is a selfish and insulated way to relationally engage another person. Put yourself in a young lady’s white Converse for a moment. As you’re walking down the hall to your Biology class, you approach a guy in a gorilla suit holding his cleverly scrawled Harambe sign. Here you stand, in public, being “promposed” to. What are you options? To keep walking and ignore the guy would humiliate him which might cause him to escalate the situation and really embarrass you to save face. If you face up to him and say “no,” you are a killjoy--everyone around you can see how thoughtful and creative he’s been and you crushing him turns you into that girl with no sense of humor and no heart. Putting myself in that situation, I imagine I would cave. I’d go along with it, hoping I know the guy behind the monkey mask and that I won’t hate him as a date to prom. The boy, on the other hand, is safely insulated. He’s risking a little by dressing as an ape, but our culture largely applauds audacious acts in the name of love, so he’ll probably move up in the social spectrum. He can be fairly sure that his target will go along with the the plan to avoid any awkwardness or discomfort--anyway, if it all falls apart, he can laugh it off as if he wasn’t that serious anyway.
To be fair, I’m sure I’m making this all more complicated than it actually is. I really don’t judge kids too harshly in these matters--it’s a jungle out there after all. It does get me thinking, however, about how we “court” people in the church context. We are about to embark in a church-wide push for relational leadership at CTK Nampa. I will be asking each of you to prioritize your areas of ministry as circles of relationship first, and the task at hand second. This will be easier for some of you than others. My challenge to us, in this process is that we do relationships well. It would be tempting to pull out whatever creative and flashy tricks we can muster to attract people to service or make them feel guilty enough to join us if only to avoid an awkward church culture encounter. On the other hand, what if we went with a more traditional angle on inviting people into relationship and ministry? If we, as leaders, agreed to look people in the eye, speak to them as equals, and always allow for a way out, I imagine we would largely end up with people in our areas of ministry who engage in service and relationship for the duration because they feel validated and valuable.
It’s tough to look a teenage kid in the eye and ask them to the dance in private where they have every opportunity to say no or let us down--and it’s certainly never going to go viral on YouTube, at least, not in the way we would want it to! On the other hand, the validated and valued date feels free to be themselves and contribute to the the experience as an equal partner. In fact, I bet that person is more likely to be your friend long after the dance.