EDITOR'S NOTE: He Said-She Said is a biweekly advice column for singles featuring a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I'm seventeen (eighteen in a month) and about to graduate high school. I just started going to my church's youth group a year ago and am basically the oldest kid there. A couple of months ago, I started to really like my youth pastor. I don't think that is that surprising, because he's an older guy and probably the most godly man I know. But here's the thing: I think he might like me, too. He is only a couple of years older than me, so honestly, if he wasn't my youth pastor, it wouldn't be that weird. Would it be inappropriate if after I graduate high school and leave the group we were to pursue a relationship?
HE SAID: I appreciate you seeking counsel as you may sense the seriousness of the ramifications of the relationship you desire.
As a “perennial” high school youth leader, I would be remiss if I didn’t share some of the astute guidance I received under the tutelage of some very wise pastors and mentors. Please receive this word of caution out of concern not condemnation.
Before you venture down this road too quickly (even in your mind), please respect the ministry your youth pastor has been called to and the role he plays within the church. What may seem like an innocent attraction at this point, can jeopardize and derail what God has planned for him and the lives of those surrounding the both of you.
As a youth pastor, he is accountable to his youth and pastoral staff, all of your parents and the congregation, and to God. He is being held to a much higher standard than another young man who is only a couple of years older. He is called to live a life above reproach with no “appearance of immorality.”
Because of his position and your age, any contact between the two of you outside of sanctioned youth and church activities (or in private) may be construed as improper conduct.
I caution you about sharing your feelings with anyone except for a much older, mature, female confidant who is well acquainted with each of you. Discussing it, even with a friend you “trust,” may lead to envy, jealousy, gossip, hearsay or rumors, all of which will be detrimental to his ministry and the group.
I strongly suggest you don’t proceed, encourage, manipulate or promote a relationship or contact with your youth pastor beyond the bounds of “official” youth group activities. If a relationship with your youth pastor is truly called by God, it will wait a couple of months (or years), as in the case of those I have worked under in youth ministry.
Once you turn eighteen, graduate and are no longer a part of his ministry, if there is mutual interest he should be the one to take the initiative to pursue a relationship with you. What often gets us into trouble is following the tug of our heart rather than prayerfully seeking an answer and waiting for God’s timing.
SHE SAID: Inappropriate? No. It would not be inappropriate to date someone a couple of years older than you, since you are both (or you soon will be) of legal age. But in this case, could it appear to be inappropriate? Yes.
I think what gives me the most reason for pause in your situation is this: your younger brothers and sisters in Christ in your church youth group. What will they think if they see a very recent former group member in a dating relationship with their current youth pastor? Will they continue to learn from his teaching uninterrupted and glean understanding from their Bible studies with him? Or will their focus be diverted to your relationship and will they start seeing the youth pastor in more of a predatory-possibly-creepy light (even though you are of legal age, I understand) instead of as a trusted mentor and shepherd?
Do you see the point I’m trying to make? Let’s also see what Scripture has to say:
Avoid every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).That means if the “appearance” of what you are doing (even if it is on the up and up) would lead someone to think there is something “evil” going on and could be offensive to them, then you need to do your best to steer clear of it.
Do not cause anyone to stumble (1 Corinthians 10:32). If your primary desire is to be someone who is adding to the Kingdom and not detracting from it, being conscientious of your actions and how they can influence others will be a priority for you in your faith journey.
As believers in Christ, our primary mission here on earth is to represent our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to spread the Good News about what he has done for us on the Cross (Matthew 28:16-20). I know you are young, but whether you know it or not you truly are more of an “elder” in your youth group, and the younger members are looking to you as an example for holy living. That means you are charged with living above reproach.
Now, if you start dating your youth pastor after you graduate high school and have exited the church youth group will that cause a “little one” to sin (Mark 9:42)? Maybe and maybe not. But could it cause confusion and cause impressionable teens to doubt what they are hearing being taught from the Word by their youth pastor? Absolutely!
And so my advice to you is to do what might seem like a very drastic measure: do nothing and wait. You have your whole life ahead of you. I can’t give you a timeframe, but I know that if you are prayerfully seeking God’s will in this matter that he will show you when or even if you are to act on your feelings for your youth pastor. In the meantime, “have salt” in yourself (Mark 9:50) as you seek to be a witness for the Lord and let your life point to him wherever you go and in whatever you do.
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the twenty-first century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you. Click here to visit the He Said-She Said archives.