Dodging Bullets: Spencer’s Secret
Spencer is a youth ministry veteran. He leads his local network of youth ministers group, frequents major youth conventions and has a seemingly ever-expanding youth ministry in his home church in New England. Spencer is currently a middle-aged married man who has a passion for his ministry and community. Those that are close to Spencer would say that he has a perfect marriage and he attracts other youth workers as his advice is normally spot on.
Spencer’s youth group is a healthy mix of guys and girls who love him and he loves his ministry. He loves taking them on trips and preparing sermons for them on every topic imaginable. His leaders see him as a role model and one who truly exemplifies the heart of Christ in their community. The church leadership’s only regret with Spencer is that they can’t afford to give him more in the means of a salary and a better parsonage.
However, Spencer has a secret that has haunted him since Junior High School and has followed him through his Bachelor’s degree in youth ministry from a fairly well known youth ministry program in the Mid-West. Spencer is addicted to pornography. Spencer is very well versed in keeping this problem to himself. Spencer often stays up late at night to work on his messages, but that’s when the evil thoughts creep in and his wandering eyes and heart take over. Spencer knows enough about computers to use a different web browser that he hides buried in the documents folder of his computer. He also works to ensure that his wife is asleep or out of the house when he chooses to download porn. Spencer knows two things, that he has a problem and that he can’t be discovered lest he lose his job and probably his marriage as well. Spencer is certain of one thing, he can’t come out of his closet.
Spencer tries to open up anonymously to some online friends who counsel him to come clean and seek personal help including getting monitoring programs from xxxchurch.com or Net-Nanny. Spencer resisted these out of embarrassment and potential for being found out if he had these programs on his computer. Spencer has noticed that his eyes in church and youth group have begun to wander as he notices similarities between his students and the girls he sees online.
Spencer becomes more and more depressed as he realizes his addiction is growing and getting help seems to be out of the question. Spencer starts accessing porn from his laptop while in the security of his church office. Little did Spencer know that the IT guy Justin had installed monitoring software that alerted Justin and the Chairman of the Board Andy of the transgression. It didn’t take long for them to knock on Spencer’s door to confront him. At first Spencer blamed it on a few of the youth and that he would get to the bottom of it, but seeing the timestamps on the weblog they kept pressing him until Spencer confessed his history of porn that dated back to his years in the Junior High. Spencer is summarily dismissed from ministry.
The congregation wasn’t given all the details to give Spencer and his family some privacy. This makes their curiosity worse as the elders try to stay ahead of the problem and give Spencer some grace and room to seek counseling. His wife is devastated and becomes depressed at Spencer’s betrayal of their wedding vows. However, she still loves him and wants to see him succeed in ministry, knowing he needs help first.
Let us behave properly as in the day,
not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality,
not in strife and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
One night, Elder Stone stops by his parsonage to pray with him. Elder Stone talked with Spencer about his secret and talked with him about coming out and renewing himself and his vows. Spencer wanted that more than anything but was devastated. Spencer chose to leave town for residential treatment. Spencer’s wife moved to near where his treatment was being held and participated in therapy. They also learned coping mechanisms to deal with his continued lusts. Leaving the facility several months later, they moved back to a town near their family. Spencer knows that he will never again be able to work in youth ministry.
Questions for Reflection:
– What made it hard for Spencer to come out and confront his addiction?
– What assets did Spencer have that he could have used to deal with his problem earlier?
– How would you counsel a Spencer if he came into your office seeking help?
Spencer is not alone in his fight. Several articles have been written about the problem of porn in ministry including: http://www.youthministry.com/articles/culture/qa-doug-fields-craig-gross-problem-porn. Xxxchurch.com is leading the way in pornography accountability software. Some additional ways you can avoid Spencer’s debacle.
– Get an accountability partner. Give this person “the keys to the kingdom” as far as Internet passwords, search histories, and make available reports from your accountability software. Both genders struggle with this, so don’t be embarrassed if you feel it’s a problem belonging to another gender.
– If you are accessing porn even “once in a while,” seek help. Come clean, confess to your wife, to your church board and get the help you need. This may mean a break in ministry, but your comeback can be more grace filled than if you keep it in the closet for someone to dig out for you.
– Don’t access the Internet/computers when you are weak. If you have these problems flee, do your notes on paper and pen if you need to study. Go to public places to avoid the temptation that comes with having a laptop or smartphone.
– Don’t underestimate the power of this addiction. As it attacks you from inside your brain, the endorphins it plays with are just as strong as Heroine, don’t give it a foothold.