Purity and Practice (1 Timothy 5:2b)

And treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. (1 Timothy 5:2b)

I remember many years ago, back in my "single male" days, going to a church to undertake an internship, and meeting with the senior pastor for the first time. One of the first things he said to me surprised me at the time. "Be careful about any friendships you develop with young women in the youth ministry."

Looking back, I see more clearly than I did then, the wisdom of such advice. When you take on a leadership role and start relating with members of the opposite sex there are potentially difficult and even dangerous dynamics at work.

Firstly young people who are going through struggles can be easily infatuated with a leader who is strong in their faith and stable in their emotions. Being around this leader makes the young person feel more secure and able to cope with life and the feelings that develop are therefore less about selfless love and more about having their own underlying needs met.

Secondly, young people may lack the maturity to read signals and appreciate context, and so can easily misunderstand the care a mature leader shows toward them.

I remember my own daughter developing a "crush" on one of the young male youth group leaders when she was in her mid teens. Sometimes after youth group she'd tell me excitedly how he had hugged her when she arrived that night. While he may have been acting innocently in showing Christian love and friendship to her (and other young girls), I believe he was acting naively and even unwisely. His actions could easily be misinterpreted and cause harm.

A third reason why youth leaders should not become involved with young people is that a power imbalance exists between them that makes it possible for the young person to be manipulated, intentionally or not. Any faith decisions may be less the work of the Holy Spirit and more the work of hormones as they seek to gain their leader's attention and approval.

To all this Paul has some good advice for Timothy: "Treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters."  If the words of caution in this post ring true and alert you to a potential problem, heed Paul's advice. If a problem already exists be sure to talk to your youth pastor, key leader or elder, and take advantage of the advice and accountability they can offer you.


Reflect on your interactions with young people and ask the Holy Spirit to alert you to any potential problems in the way they relate to you. Are they seeking your attention in order to receive attention or affection? Seek advise on what you should do.

Similarly, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any wrong affections or thoughts on your part toward each young person. Do you treat them and think about them as you would a younger sister or brother? Confess anything that comes to mind and seek someone to hold you accountable.