The Dangers of Relational Ministry

A while back I found that someone had found my blog by searching for the term “The Dangers of Relational Ministry.” I promised to blog about it a couple of weeks ago, and took the time to really think it through. Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a vocal supporter of ministries that are based in relationships. Many times this is the only way to reach someone at the level they need to connect on in order to hear what God has to say to them. It sets up a connection that cannot be faked, and a level of trust that will allow you to speak real truth into a student’s life. But there are a few dangers that can pop up that you need to be aware of.

  • Watch out for the “buddy system” – When building a relationship with a student you are forging a friendship. Remember to keep a buffer in this friendship that still allows you to remain a shepherd, and not fall to the same level as your student. If you allow your relationship to simply be a buddy friendship, there is no hope to serve as an effective shepherd – or youth minister – in your students’ life. It is a fine line to walk, but a necessary one.
  • Watch out for the Gender Gap – Never allow yourself to forge a relationship with a teen who is of the opposite sex that will encourage you to spend time one-on-one. This is for many reasons, and will allow you to keep your teen safe from unnecessary scrutiny and accusations, and will protect you from the same scrutiny, and potential accusations should the relationship sour.
  • Watch out for Romance – This ties into the Gender Gap, but forging a deep friendship with a teen of the opposite sex could lead to feelings forming that could damage your ministry, your credibility, and your student’s future. Form relationships with them, but keep some distance.
  • Watch out for the Fun Factor – Friendships like these can create many enjoyable events and memories. Don’t allow yourself to get so caught up in the fun that you forget the ministry that needs to happen. An effective mentor will seek to find ways to use the fun to deepen the faith journey of their mentee.

You will find that many of the dangers of relational ministry can fall under these headings. Forge relationships with your students. Build deep relationships with them. But don’t let the relationship get in the way of ministry.