I grew up with brothers. Because of this, I always had close friendships with boys. Growing up in church, of course, I called these friends my “extra brothers,” especially the ones I wanted to keep from having any feelings for me other than friendship. If I put them in the “brother” category, it was far more serious than just the friend zone.
That was, until high school. Throughout my youth group years, we always separated out for ministry time. Guys prayed with guys, girls prayed with girls. There was this one guy, one I felt like I could talk to about anything. We would hang out after youth group and I would pour out my heart about my family life, my friendships and my struggles. He was a great listener, and more than that, he prayed for me passionately. It was easy to let my sisterly feelings for my “brother” slip into feelings that this boy was the one for me. Of course, it ended with me being embarrassed and him being aloof.
The heart is a tricky place to navigate. So how can we, as women, guard our hearts while remaining a fully active part of the body of Christ?
The story above happened when I was just starting high school. Let’s admit it, ladies: At this age, our hormones are coming on a little strong. It’s easy to confuse a good friend praying for us with someone who will be our knight in shining armor. I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s true.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ… (Ephesians 4:15, ESV)
Growing up is not just about age, but about becoming more like Jesus. We need to look at ourselves, hard truths and all, and in love, lean more into Him to make us more of who we ought to be. When we are growing in Christ, we can approach ministering to the opposite sex in a more mature way.
There were many times throughout the Bible where Jesus ministered directly to women. In each of these situations, the context was important. Most of the time, Jesus was either in public or with a group of disciples (which included women, although not named). He set the precedent for what ministry between men and women should generally look like. In a situation like this, no one can come with allegations of scandal.
Jesus was also about the spirit of the law, not the law itself. His interaction with the woman at the well has Jesus making an exception. Jesus was alone with this woman, at least as far as we can see from reading the story, yet he approaches her in a way that was culturally acceptable, asking for a drink before delving into her life and speaking truth to her heart.
In all ministry situations, especially with the opposite sex, we should use boundaries to guard our own hearts as well as the heart of the person receiving ministry. If you’re unsure what good boundaries look like, ask a trusted mentor or leader at your church. Setting up guidelines like where to meet, times of day to meet and what kinds of things you will share will help keep you safe from blurred lines in ministry.
Good boundaries come from learning lessons on our own or following the good examples of others. These actions build us into mature Christian women, able to build up the whole body of Christ.
How do you feel about ministering to the opposite? What has been your experience?