Dodging Bullets: Shawn’s Seduction
Shawn is an 12-year veteran in youth ministry and is a few years into his new church. Shawn puts in his fair share of hours at church and has a huge heart for youth. He puts many hours and abundant energy into getting to their events, meeting them afterschool, and providing his house for a warm, inviting place for them to hang out. He feels great about his ministry and although he may not admit it, his ministry gets dibs over his family. His wife even has stopped confronting him over leaving her and the kids holding the bucket. Shawn feels that his calling is to his youth and always feels compelled to answer that phone, text or Facebook™ message.
After months of working with Stephanie, a junior in his youth group in public settings discussing ministry, seeing her volunteer in church and grow in faith his admiration of her spirituality grows. Shawn, in the name of mentoring this girl, starts making excuses to meet with her, picks more secluded seats in restaurants for them to talk and often stays up late at night to talk with her online. While he wouldn’t admit it, his admiration has grown into infatuation. He chooses to give her more hugs, lingering touches on the shoulder and the depth of his denial grows. He dismisses his wife’s irritation with the amount of time they are spending with each other in light of the ‘spiritual work,’ which they are doing.
Stephanie also seems to reciprocate their mutual ‘admiration’ so one night after everyone has left church they confess their love for each other and kiss. Shawn takes the long road home, not knowing how to handle this with his wife, gets home and says nothing. The next day the Senior Pastor and chairman of the Board are waiting for him. It becomes quickly apparent to him that Stephanie had informed her parents what happened and they had called the Pastor. Seduced Shawn tries to repent but this falls on deaf ears. They take his keys and give him instructions on not contacting the youth or coming back to the church.
Returning home, dejected and tearful he finds his wife and confesses. Let’s just say it turns ugly and Shawn finds himself in a hotel rather quickly. The church has reached out and supported his wife, but he has quickly discovered that this error in judgment has legal repercussions also. Shawn spends the next year in court and has been sentenced to jail time over this event. Shawn knows when he gets out that there is no future for him. Embossed with the scarlet letter of being a sexual predator, he will have to register with the state knowing he will never be able to work with youth ever again.
Now flee from youthful lusts
and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace,
with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart
The youth ministry dwindles as parents pull their teens from the program. Stephanie is forced to find another church as those who have chosen to blame the victim lash out at her and her family. Shawn’s wife files for divorce and tries to rebuild her life alone. The church has already forgotten her name after a brief period of support as it’s just easier to move on.
Questions for Reflection:
– Where did Shawn first go wrong?
– How many warning (if not STOP) signs did he blow through?
– How many victims can you find? Where was the damage done?
Shawn’s mistakes are not that uncommon.:
– Assuming that you are the one to reach every student in your ministry.
– Ignoring when those around you tell you of danger.
– Mistaking admiration for infatuation.
– Leaving space to be alone with ‘Stephanie’ that is, the student who seems too good to be true spiritually, but turns out to be the snare that entraps your heart.
My prayer is that you avoid Shawn’s mistakes. Some practical steps you can do to avoid this are:
– Avoid mentoring students and volunteers of the opposite sex alone and for extended periods of time.
– When you do find someone who needs mentoring, find him or her an appropriate mentor (especially if they are of the opposite sex). This will also build your ministry team.
– Enlist accountability partners who can speak into your life. Give them permission to confront anything out of whack in your life. Listen to them.
– Give appropriate time and attention to the true loves of your life. Never stop courting your spouse and, if single, keep your dating relationships out of youth group.
– If you are single, be open with the relationships you do have. Work with your leadership and your accountability partners to steer clear of danger.
– Join a small group with your spouse where you two can grow spiritually together in community.
– Be real with the amount of time you spend ‘social networking.’ Ask yourself: Is there a good reason for you to be friending, posting, and/or chatting with this person at this time?