It seems like a regular occurrence that I hear about a youth pastor or a youth leader messing up with a teenager sexually. It is sad, but it is the reality. The reality is simple. Anyone of us could fall into this type of trouble without boundaries. Boundaries are there to protect us. Here are a few boundaries for youth leaders (particularly males):
- Do not find yourself in a car alone with the opposite sex. This is a no brainer. A male leader does not need to take girls home by himself. Find a female leader to do that. There are lady leaders out there who would do this for you. This is a boundary that will prevent problems. It is that “above approach” boundary that no one could even question your relationship with a teenager in the wrong way. Also, do not find yourself alone with a person of the opposite sex in a room.
- Be careful not to build stronger relationships with the opposite sex. Girls tend to naturally open up (especially to guys). Guys, be careful. If you are a youth leader who walks in and gravitates directly to the girls in the room to talk to them before the guys, that is a potential problem. It is okay to befriend the girls, but your main priority should be the guys you are ministering too (specifically speaking to the males).
- Physical contact. I used to have an “absolute NO physical contact” policy between leaders and students of the opposite sex. I now have taken some discretion, and allowed hugging, but even that should have boundaries. Be careful with the appearance. Also, young girls feed off of older men, so be careful that you are not allowing a hug to become flirty. I personally give a one-armed hug, but I do not look to give hugs.
- Do not counsel the opposite sex. Now, if you are the student pastor, it is fine, but have your wife with you. I do not discuss serious matters with girls unless my wife is present. I want to protect myself, and I do not ever want to give the wrong impression to the teen girl as well. Do not be up late at night texting/facebooking/tweeting the opposite sex. I do not want my teen girls to know that they are more on my mind late into the night than my family. There are emergency exceptions in student ministry, but this should not be an every night occurrence.
- Stay out of drama. This is my least favorite part about youth ministry. I despise drama, but it comes with the territory in student ministry. I recognize that students will find themselves in drama (mainly girls). If you are a guy leader who is into the teen girl drama, that is a problem. I hear way too much as the youth pastor, but I try to defer the drama to my wife or another female youth worker. I also do not care about every detail of the drama either. I do not want to give anyone the impression that I am into teen drama.