We live in a society and culture that elevates immorality. Therefore, as youth workers we have to always put ourselves in a position of living above reproach. It seems like the norm, with all the recent news, how a well known leader in the church has compromise their integrity. I have experienced this first hand and have sat on the other side of the table with one of my former mentors who comprised their integrity and crossed some boundaries. No one is exempt from crossing boundaries and that is why we have to set ourselves up to succeed. Here are 5 boundaries that have saved me in ministry and I hope these can be helpful for you.
Be an “Open Book” (People around you/ Spouses if married, etc.)
Use this with discretion and with those whom you trust. Allow yourself to be an open book. If you are married, never hide anything from your spouse. Reassure them they can look at your social media, emails, texts, etc. when asked. My wife knows the passwords to all my social accounts. That doesn’t mean she is hovering and doesn’t trust me. I am gaining accountability and trust from my wife because I am willing to put it all on the table. The same goes for those who are single. Who do you have in your life that can check in on you from time to time or have access to see what you are engaging in? When we allow ourselves to become an open book the less likely we are to stay in the dark and hide the things we know we shouldn’t be doing. Isolation will only hinder us as youth workers and is a dangerous place to be.
Never be alone with the opposite gender
This is key for those who work with students. Even if you have no intentions or it comes across as innocent, never put yourself in a suspicious situation. Youth workers should always want to position ourselves to be above reproach. If you do meet with someone of the opposite gender, whether a student or leader, do it in a public place. Better yet, have someone else present as you meet with this student or leader. With all of the sexual harassment accusations in the church today, we have to make sure we never put ourselves in a position to be accused. The main way I have avoided that is meeting in public places and having someone else present with me while meeting with those of the opposite gender.
Be real with your temptations
This may be difficult because you have to be honest with the sin in your life and stop hiding the sin from those around you. If you are never real about the sin in which you dabble, it will continue to possess the potential to pour over into your life and relationships causing you to cross boundaries you never thought you would cross. When you give in to sin, especially sexual sin such as porn, confess immediately to someone you trust and ask for help. If you continue to “feed the beast,” never confessing or asking for help, you will go down a road you always told yourself you would never go down. I have seen so much healing in my own life when I became real with myself and brought others in t0 help me overcome my temptations.
If you ask, “Is this okay?” Go with that gut feeling
I recently had a conversation with a ministry leader asking about whether or not he should take one of his opposite gender staff members for a meeting at Starbucks. His intention was never inappropriate or out of line. He was simply wrestling with how that may look if he and his co worker were seen leaving the parking lot together. I have learned over and over in ministry that if I am asking, “Is this okay?” or have any hesitations, to go with that gut feeling. This ministry leader did just that. He went with his gut and picked up Starbucks and brought it back to the office to have the meeting. This may sound ridiculous. But again, youth workers have to be professional and operate above reproach.
Clearly define boundaries
I have learned that defined boundaries have held me accountable time and time again. I have seen this in my normal relationships and working in youth ministry. Youth workers need to clearly define boundaries and live within those boundaries when facing each challenging situation. You must determine what you stand for and not compromise. Take some time to write, whether on paper or in a Google doc, your boundaries down and keep them for constant review and accountability. When you have defined your boundaries, share them with someone who will hold you accountable to those boundaries.