Recognizing that we are all human and all have the capacity to sin is the first step in protecting your life and your ministry.
All too often I hear of a Youth Pastor having sexual relations with someone in his youth group (it can happen with female leaders too, just less often). This sickens me. It saddens me. And Most importantly it scares me. In Matthew 26 Jesus drops an emotional bomb on the apostles: One of you will betray me.
“When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the twelve disciples. While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?” Matt 26:20-22 (NLT).
I am convinced that so many Youth Pastors are disqualified by heinous sexual sins because they refuse to acknowledge that such sins are a possibility for them. We like to think that we would not cross that line, and surely most of us would not just dance across it intentionally. I would even venture to say that there is scarcely a Youth Pastor who sets out with infidelity and sexual sin as their goal. But the cold hard truth is that even with a new spiritual nature, we continue to struggle with the sins and temptations of the flesh. Pastors and other Godly leaders are not immune to such sins and temptations. So how can we protect our ministry and our lives from such sins?
Acknowledge that We Are All Capable of Sin
You need to; no you have to; own up to the fact that you are a sinner. We are saved by God’s Grace, we are called as ministers through his choosing but we are still sinners by nature. Our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. I know it is scary to admit you are capable of such sins (it is even scarier to write about them) but we must. If we deny our sinful nature we put a mighty weapon in that hands of our enemy and you can bet that he will use it given the chance. If we stay in denial about our capacity to commit sin, Satan will subtly and slowly attack us. He will wear us down until all it takes is one sharp blow of temptation to push us over the edge.
Keep Your Heart and Your Body at a Safe Distance
As a Youth Pastor you will most likely minister to some amazing and godly young people. They need to see a Christ-like example from you. They need to hear Biblically sound messages from you. They even need high fives and possibly the occasional non-lingering hug. However, they also need for you to keep your emotional bond and your physical touch at a safe distance. Remember little brushes on the hand, are little emotional steps can lead to disaster if not kept in check.
The point is that as a Youth Pastor or leader you are called to minister to members of the opposite sex and doing so properly and Biblically means we realize we cannot be the primary minister or mentor to a member of the opposite sex. A teenage girl needs a Godly female leader to nurture and disciple her in her walk with Christ. She needs to have private conversations and ask questions that are inappropriate for male leaders to discuss. Likewise a teenage boy needs a Godly male leader to nurture and disciple him in his walk with Christ. He needs to have conversations with an adult male leader in ways and about things that are inappropriate for a female leader to discuss. We must set up boundaries that protect our youth (and ourselves) from the potential for sexual sin. Overstepping these boundaries will make us susceptible to avoidable temptation and sin.
Make Intimacy with Your Spouse a Priority
God designed us as intimate creatures. Even though we pervert this desire with sexual sins, the desire itself is a gift of God. As men we are especially driven by sexual urges therefore we must make intimacy with our spouse a top priority. Ladies, you are not off the hook, you tend to be more emotional driven when it comes to intimacy and therefore need to make sure you are getting your emotional needs fulfilled. Mutual intimate satisfaction within marriage is one of the best defenses against sexual sin. The lack of mutual intimate satisfaction within marriage is a major weakness and often at the root of sexual sin. So date your spouse; Be intentional. Work through stresses and hard times together or get some counseling if it is needed. Above all love, cherish and enjoy your spouse the way God intended.
Use Common Sense
Lastly, please use your head. Have some common sense. Think through your decisions and your interactions. Let me leave you with some of my common sense guidelines I use for myself and my volunteers:
- Do NOT be alone with a teenager of the opposite sex. Just DO NOT do it. Not for a car ride, not in your home, not in a closed office, etc.
- Do NOT do things that create a sexual response in either party. (i.e. Sitting in your lap)
- Do NOT do things that will cause an emotional attraction to the opposite sex (i.e. complementing her body, telling her how cute she looks, feeling his muscles, etc.)
- Do NOT do things that you would not do in front of your spouse.
- Do NOT compromise. If a youth of the opposite sex needs a ride, find them one, or find someone to go with you. But do not compromise. Little compromises can lead to big compromises.
- Do NOT ignore red flags and warning signs.
- Do NOT disregard the advice and concern of Godly men and women.
Pray, be on guard and stay diligent. Seek God’s protection. Heed to His word and the directing of His Spirit.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matt. 10:16 (ESV)