Guiding the Youth into Godly Friendships
Since my early days in the youth ministry, I’ve been discouraged from entering into an exclusive relationship with a woman. My youth ministry, from its pastors, speakers, and full-time staff, to small group leaders and volunteers, has been persistent in advocating that as long as someone is a student, he or she is highly discouraged from committing to an exclusive relationship and is urged to wait for God’s perfect time. In the meantime, the student must find satisfaction in God, develop Christ-like character, excel in studies, volunteer in the ministry, among many others.
I have to say that my youth ministry is generally successful in its campaign. I’m a couple of years past my teenage years, and I haven’t yet entered into an exclusive relationship. Moreover, I’m still waiting (and praying) for the right time and the right woman. Now that I’m a small group leader, I’ve also advocated the same.
But recently, I asked myself this question: While we (leaders in the youth ministry) are successful in discouraging the youth into entering an exclusive relationship, are we leading them into godly friendships?
I thought of this question because I have made an observation. I noticed a trend (at least in my youth group), and there are two extremes. On one hand, I’ve seen teenagers who have developed close friendships with the opposite sex. Before anything else, let me make clear that I am not against male-female friendships. I myself have lots of female friends who are close to me. My concern is these people have also developed strong and untimely emotional attachments with the opposite sex. It’s like they’re mutually exclusive for one another, only without a title. Most of the times, this attachment is premature, leading to misguided behavior and unnecessary heartaches. This is not healthy.
On the other hand, I’ve seen teenagers who have little (and sometimes none at all) interaction with the opposite sex. This is not healthy either.
We may have been successful in discouraging the youth from exclusive relationships. But I believe we aren’t doing much in leading them into godly friendships.
I am appealing to my fellow youth leaders that we guide the youth into godly friendships. Here’s what we can do:
1. Let’s help them appreciate friends of the same sex. I used to believe that as a man, only a woman can fulfill my emotional longings. But I’ve learned that men can fulfill it as well. I’ve been giving my life to a group of young men (college students) for the past three years. These men helped me battle loneliness as I continually pour myself into them, discipling them into Christ-likeness. Also, I have invested myself into the lives of other men, older and younger than me, who draw me closer to the Lord. (See my blog To Be Lionhearted and Lamblike: My Prayer for Every Man)
2. Let’s encourage them to interact with the opposite sex. I know there are lots of guidelines regarding this. But my point is simple: Let’s not withhold them from enjoying friendships with the opposite sex. Rather, with our guidance, let’s encourage them to join ministries and fellowship groups where they can experience these interactions. Who knows? They might find their future spouses from these groups.
By the way, here’s a photo of my friends from the ministry (photo by Leonard Cua):