This semester on Tuesdays we’re taking a deep dive into Young Life team dynamics. If you missed the first couple posts, check them out here:
This third post in the series was written by Brad Bucklad.
Full disclosure – I met my wife at a
Young Life camp. APEX was a wilderness style backpacking camp operated in the Appalachia’s surrounding Asheville, NC, and she had served as a guide there for two summers. I attended college in Asheville, where I served as a volunteer leader. As leaders in town, we’d visit camp to see friends, play ultimate frisbee, and (hopefully) meet girls. It was the last day of the summer when I met my wife for the first time. I can still picture today what she was wearing, who she was with, the building I saw her walk out of. Several times a year we drive by this place as a family, and every time I point it out to our kids as the place where mom and dad met. I am grateful that God used this mission to place us in each other’s lives.
Today I serve in a college town where the subject of romance, dating, and marriage between teammates is an annual occurrence. As someone who met his wife through this mission, I understand the appeal of the idea and even want to encourage it when it’s beneficial. What better place to meet someone who shares a love for Christ, a passion for calling and mission, and a sense of humor and adventure that characterizes our ministry? There is not much I would enjoy more than watching two volunteer leaders I know and love join together in marriage and continue their lives together serving Christ and hopefully chasing after lost kids.
The challenge lies in that in-between time. Dating is messy. Every single dating relationship ends in either a break-up or marriage. How this plays out dramatically affects your relationship with co-leaders, the broader leadership community, and the kids you are working to share the Gospel with and lead in the direction of Christ. As those called by Christ, we have both the responsibility and obligation to consider the consequences of our actions, and how they will impact His ministry, both now and in the future. If you are curious about the possibility of dating someone you serve alongside in ministry, would you first consider these suggestions?
1. Talk with the staff person who oversees your area of ministry before making any sort of romantic advances. Different areas address this in different ways for a variety of reasons. Regardless, we live and serve under authority. Please trust that God has placed them in your life with a purpose and that it is for your ultimate good.
2. Remember that self-control is listed as a fruit of the Spirit, not self-indulgence. God is not calling you to run into and out of romantic relationships with reckless abandon, especially with those you serve alongside in ministry. Err on the side of moving slowly with great prayer and consideration. Dating serves the purpose of discerning a desire to get married, not simply fulfilling our felt desires.
3. Speaking of felt desires…there is an inherent risk of sexual temptation built into dating. A sexual relationship with anyone carries a risk for emotional harm—it is why God designed this to thrive within the security of marriage vows. By striving to avoid a physical relationship with teammates, you are working to protect yourselves and your team from potential injury if the dating relationship ends in a break-up.
4. Dating is not directly covered in Scripture. As near as I can tell, there are only three categories for opposite-sex relationships described there: mother and son or father and daughter, husband and wife, or brother or sister in Christ. Notice the tension? The first two are very narrow and are determined through birth, adoption, or marriage vows. The last one is broad and inclusive. Which category does a dating relationship fit
within? Our temptation is to create a fourth category that has the commitment level of “brother or sister in Christ” and the benefits of “husband or wife.” God does not give us this option. We are to conduct ourselves with “absolute purity” (1 Tim 5:1) as we treat those men and women who are not in the same household as a brother or sister in Christ. This is a clear and helpful context for dating relationships.
While the story of my wife and I meeting might inspire a few, “awww”s from kids in a club talk, there isn’t anything particularly admirable about it. Put in the harshest light, my motives were largely self-serving and ignorant of potential harm to her ministry. Thankfully, God saw fit to
draw us together and has empowered us to remain together.
Play the same scene out when serving on the same Young Life team, and consider how team relationships, contact work, club, Campaigners, camp, and more could be damaged by self-serving motives. The potential rewards are certainly worth striving for, but the risks require great caution. Please, talk to your area staff first. Practice self-control in all areas. Treat them as a brother or sister in Christ. Seek not to indulge yourself, but instead to honor this calling God has placed on your life and the relationships you are responsible for.