Boundaries for Youth Leaders

boundaries for youth leadersIt seems like a regular occurrence that I hear about a youth pastor or a youth leader messing up with a teenager sexually. It is sad, but it is the reality. The reality is simple. Anyone of us could fall into this type of trouble without boundaries. Boundaries are there to protect us. Here are a few boundaries for youth leaders (particularly males):

  • Do not find yourself in a car alone with the opposite sex– This is a no brainer. A male leader does not need to take girls home by himself. Find a female leader to do that. There are lady leaders out there who would do this for you. This is a boundary that will prevent you. It is that “above approach” boundary that no one could even question your relationship with a teenager in the wrong way. Also, do not find yourself alone with a person of the opposite sex in a room. 
  • Be careful not to build stronger relationships with the opposite sex– Girls tend to naturally open up (especially to guys). Guys, be careful. If you are a youth leader who walks in and gravitates directly to the girls in the room to talk to them before the guys, that is a potential problem. It is okay to befriend the girls, but your main priority should be the guys you are ministering too (specifically speaking to the males).
  • Physical Contact– I used to have an “absolute NO physical contact” policy between leaders and students of the opposite sex. I now have taken some discretion, and allowed hugging, but even that should have boundaries. Be careful with the appearance. Also, young girls feed off of older men so be careful that you are not allowing a hug to become flirty. I personally give a one-armed hug, but I do not look to give hugs.
  • Do not counsel the opposite sex– Now, if you are the student pastor, it is fine, but have your wife with you. I do not discuss serious matters with girls unless my wife is present. I want to protect myself, and I do not ever want to give the wrong impression to the teen girl as well. Do not be up late at night texting/facebooking/tweeting the opposite sex. I do not want my teen girls to know that they are more on my mind late into the night than my family. There are emergency exceptions in student ministry, but this should not be an every night occurrence.
  • Stay out of Drama– This is my least favorite part about youth ministry. I despise drama, but it comes with the territory in student ministry. I recognize that students will find themselves in drama (mainly girls). If you are a guy leader who is into the teen girl drama, that is a problem. I hear way too much as the youth pastor, but I try to defer the drama to my wife or another female youth worker. I also do not care about every detail of the drama either. I do not want to give anyone the impression that I am into teen drama 🙂

What boundaries do you recommend?

Published by Josh Evans

Josh is the connections pastor of the Oakleaf campus of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. Before that, Josh had been a mentor and pastor to students for 10 years. Josh is passionate about empowering church leaders to make a difference. Josh and his wife Abby have two children. You can connect further with Josh on this blog or send him a direct email at

4 thoughts on “Boundaries for Youth Leaders

  1. This is a wonderful post, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I am a summer intern working in youth ministry right now, I and I believe there may be a problem with the youth pastor I am working with an a child in the youth group. I have seen the youth pastor (a single man in his early 20’s) interact in a way that I feel is inappropriate and unprofessional. He has offered to drive her home alone, have long conversations in the sanctuary after she is out of school (one time lasting four hours) and they have been in the building alone together after I have left for the day. From actions, words spoken and non-verbal cues, I have become very skeptical of this relationship and I feel that I may need to bring my concerns up to a deacon I trust. The child in this relationship just graduated from high school a few days ago, and I do not know for sure if she is under 18 or not, but regardless, I feel uncomfortable with this situation. Do you have any advice for me? I am a little worried of the youth pastor finding out that I “blabbed” although I am not afraid to do the right thing.

    1. Renee,

      Thanks for sharing! I appreciate your heart and willingness to be honest with me about the situation that you are currently facing. I would suggest doing something active about the situation, because it sounds sketch to me. I would want someone to be notified if it was my daughter. Let me know how things turn out.


  2. Josh, good article.
    Renee, this situation is definitely sketch. I’m a fifteen year vet. Even if the girl is 18 it is inappropriate for church staff to have relationships with people of this age. You have a few options. 1. Find a trustworthy, faithful leader to go with you when you talk to the youth director directly with your concerns and let them that the appearance of impropriety is wrong as well. 2. Talk to the pastor of the church.

    If the pastor or the deacon are judgmental the youth director could lose their job and their career, when it was just bad judgment on the youth directors part. So choose your support carefully.

    I would like to hear how it turned out as well in general terms.

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