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Help! I’m a Youth Minister Struggling with Porn!

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As a youth minister, it’s an already confusing task to lead youth to the feet of Jesus when you yourself need to take the journey. How can we bear students’ sins and sufferings when we’re barely holding on? How can we lead youth to streams of living water when we’re dying in the desert?

And then throw porn into the mix. Some churches call for an all-out air strike on any of their staff who might wrestle with pornography: the staff position will be taken away and the staff person will leave in shame. While we don’t have time to get into church policy, the measures taken by any church should be nuanced enough to vary by situation. But as youth ministers, how can we ourselves move forward? What are some initial categories we can keep in mind?

Confession to My Spouse, Boss or Mentor?

Placed in context, the richness of James’ teaching on confession becomes apparent:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (5:13-16, ESV).

Confession does help others hold us accountable, but more than that, confession is a means for others to join their healing prayers for us with the two Divine intercessors, our Great High Priest and the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27, 34). Sin says, “Don’t confess. No one can be trusted.” Jesus says otherwise. Sin casts confession as insecurity and defeat. Jesus casts confession as a means to healing.

Confession is scary, and I always wrestle with it whatever my sin. But I’ve got to lean into what I know is true: God says there is healing here, not destruction.

If there is a pattern of confession already taking place in your marriage, confess to your spouse. It’s a wonderful way to practice the type of humble one-anothering that is required of us in Ephesians 5. But should you confess to your boss? It certainly depends on the type of church culture you are in and, more particularly, the relationship you have with your boss. Confessing to bosses cannot be mandatory. Do we confess to peers? I certainly think so, but peers usually do not have the gray streaks of wisdom that come with age and experience. That gray-streaked wisdom can help to lift us from the mire, instead of simply commiserating with us in the midst of it.

Consider confessing to someone older and wiser, possibly in ministry, who has demonstrated not only a record of humility but also a record of being able to shoulder other people’s burdens. This person will be able to both empathize with you and point out potential blind spots in yourself.

Practical Repentance

The urgent call is clear: we need to brainstorm ways, to whomever we confess, to practically turn from our sin and turn to Jesus. At the minimum, it will mean installing filtering and accountability software on all devices you use. But it could also mean getting rid of smartphones or personal computers altogether. It could mean setting up times of Bible study and prayer with the person to whom you confess. It will certainly mean making a habit of daily prayer to cast ourselves upon our God. The key is practical, daily repentance, not lofty, vague goals.

Practical Love

As a youth leader, you are already serving. But as a way to battle the inward spiral of selfishness that porn facilitates. let’s look for ways for you to serve more. Can you set up regular times to do the dishes for your wife or husband instead of surfing the Internet? Can you set up a standing meeting with students that will interfere with your usual time of looking at porn (i.e., early breakfasts, dinners)? With the person to whom we confess, it’s good to brainstorm little, practical ways that we can further love and serve others for the kingdom of God.

Seasoned Mentors

All of the above ideas–confession, repentance and love–happen in the midst of a relationship with someone we trust. I would strongly advise finding older and wiser men and women who can serve as mentors for us. This could mean having a standing meeting where we talk about life, stress, good things, hard things or anything at all. During these meetings we could spend time in prayer, perhaps walk through a book on Christian living together or simply read Scripture.

The main point is this: pornography thrives in the darkness of isolation. It is best dispelled in the light of relationship with others.

Pornography thrives in the darkness of isolation. It is best dispelled in the light of relationship… Click To Tweet

Jesus Chose You

It is difficult to reconcile our own sin with the leadership task we have been given as youth ministers. But we also need to recognize that God has chosen sinners to act as youth ministers; He has chosen us in our weakness and sin to point others to Himself. Jesus’ words are obvious, but I often forget the obvious:

“‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mark 2:17).

When fighting porn as a leader, we must remember that Jesus came for people like us and has united us to Himself in a Spirit-forged bond. The Spirit residing within us is power to engage the fight passionately and relentlessly. He will not give up on us. And that truth is water to a desert-ridden soul, hope for the confused youth minister and fuel to keep leading others to the very same Savior that we ourselves so desperately need.


 

Cooper YS

Cooper Pinson is on staff with Harvest USA’s THE STUDENT OUTREACH and has served in various capacities in youth ministry, having most recently served as Junior High Director at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, AL before heading north to study at Westminster Theological Seminary. He and his wife have one, beautiful daughter. Check out more from The Student Outreach at WWW.THESTUDENTOUTREACH.ORG@GOSPELSEXUALITY


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS. 

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