Why Young Men Should NEVER Counsel/Mentor/Disciple Young Women (Or Vice Versa) Part 1

It is a familiar scenario. A young man and a young woman meet in a church context. Perhaps one of them is a youth-pastor or some sort of spiritual leader. Perhaps one of them is a new Christian, or needy, or struggling in some way. Of course, they are “just friends” – perhaps one or both of them have romantic interests elsewhere. Romance is not in the picture at all, which is why it is all that much easier to become very close friends. They “hang out.” They talk. They pray. They read the Bible together. They share life problems and pursue Christian maturity together. Occasionally they cry together. Always, they are there for one another.

Usually, somewhere along the way, things “get weird.” Maybe his or her boyfriend gets jealous. Or a third-party steps in to warn or challenge one or both parties that perhaps their relationship is not helpful. Or she begins to interpret his interest romantically, and is devastated when he responds with shock and surprise. Or he begins to have confusing dreams and thoughts about her. Or…well, you get the picture. Things “just get weird.”

Quite often, these situations then result in one or the other party backing off – usually suddenly and ungraciously. The confusion and pain which results likely obliterates any good which may or may not have resulted from the shared time of “discipleship” together.

As I said, this is all a common scenario. Sometimes, admittedly, things don’t appear to end badly. In a best-case scenario, sometimes the couple simply becomes officially romantic, and a wonderful marriage blossoms out of the encounter. However, usually the closer one is to such a situation, the more one sees how tangled, messy and “weird” the scenarios are – and sometimes the marriages based on such relationships never come free of the dysfunctionality at their inception.

The question which many a youth-pastor, pastor, college professor and friend has wondered over the years is, “Is this okay? Is it ever okay for a young man to seek out, counsel, help and ‘be there’ for a young woman who is hurting? Or, conversely, is it wrong for a young woman to seek out and help a hurting young man?”

I would like to end the confusion: No, it is not okay. Ever. No, not even in your case.

IT JUST DOESN’T WORK!

I have to admit at the outset that I don’t have a “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” verse up my sleeve – this is not one of those issues. I have almost exclusively personal experience to go on. But in my humbly opinionated opinion, my personal experience has been pretty conclusive! I haven’t seen a whole lot of anything good come out of this sort of thing, and I have seen a whole whack of badness come out of it.

Here is what I have learned, and what I would like to share on this topic:

WHEN A GIRL ‘MENTORS’ A BOY, SHE BECOMES HIS ‘MOMMY,’ AND NEITHER GROW UP

A young man in his teens is at a critical and tricky stage. All his life, he has had someone – his mommy – pander to his every need. This is a far more universal experience than a constant father-figure: almost everybody has a mother who came running when they fell and skinned their knees. However, sometime before a young man becomes a MAN, he has to learn how to bandage his own knees.

My favorite passage for this is 1 Samuel 30:6. In enemy territory, with his friend and the king of the land publicly disgracing him, David returns home to find his village razed to the ground, and his family taken by raiders. He and his men weep all day. Then it turns ugly: the men blame David, and plan to stone him. Understandably, David is quite distressed.

Then there is that magical phrase: “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” After that, he stood up, called his men to action, laid out a plan and fought to get their families back.

Now, I’m not saying that a man never cries – David cried all day in this case. I am also not saying that a real man makes all his decisions alone. If his wife or men had been there for him, no doubt he would have talked things over before deciding on a plan of action. But the issue here is what happens at crunch time, when there is nobody? David did not go running home to a woman when he was at a crunch time. He did not lean on a woman’s strength. He became strong, in the presence of God. In the complete absence of a woman – or of any sympathetic voice, David became strong, charted a course of action, and began moving in it.

This is the defining mark of a man: a boy, by contrast, does not know how to function without a “mommy.” If there is no one around to bandage his knees, he just sits on the ground and cries.

Many young men feel a great loss when their own mommies stop listening to them, or they stop talking to them. So they seek out an new, more attractive maternal figure to fill the “mommy role.” Now, when crunch-time comes, they can run to her, cry out their sorrows and get “mothered” through the “crisis.”

Ladies, listen carefully: if you are caught in this sort of thing, the best, most loving thing that you can do is simply to close and lock the door of your heart. Even if that young man beats on your door all night, you will be doing him more good by rejecting him than by letting him in.

Men learn to be men by learning from other men, and from being alone with God: having a surrogate mother is a ticket to Never-Never land, where boys can avoid manhood perpetually.

Before moving on, there is something else to be said here. As I will discuss below, a woman also needs to learn to stand on her own two feet, to strengthen herself before the Lord. A great temptation for women, I believe, is that as long as they are “needed” by someone, they feel that they are being fulfilled.

And so – although I am not very wise to the ways of women – I have observed that women who allow men to seek them out as mother figures also themselves are stuck in a regressive stage of development.

…so neither grow up, even if much “mentoring” and “discipling” seems to be taking place.

WHEN A ‘BOY’ OR ‘MAN’ MENTORS A ‘GIRL,’ IT TURNS ROMANTIC

This is the more common, and the more problematic issue, so I want to dwell on it thoroughly. I will break it down to some component parts to make it more clear:

1) MAKING A WOMAN’S PROBLEMS YOUR PROBLEMS IS A ROMANTIC ADVANCE

Read the above sentence sloooowwwwllllyyy. Men, this could save your career, ministry, marriage, life. Read it carefully, believe it, apply it, live by it. It is true.

Ruth (the one in the Bible) was a woman who had problems. Financial problems, loneliness problems – you know. Those sorts of problems. But there was this “certain guy” who was making her problems his problems. He protected her, provided for her, and talked to her caringly. The hint was taken. Then Ruth responded in kind: she quietly slipped in one night while he was sleeping and pulled his “blankets” (actually, his cloak) over her. When he awoke, she said, “Spread your cloak over me, for you are my kinsmen redeemer.” What that meant (not to get into too many details – you all know the context and the story) is that she saw that he was looking out for her. She assumed this meant that he was romantically interested. She accepted the advance. Now she wanted to make it official. Like, NOW.

Men, are you paying attention? Perhaps you would do well to go up there and read that sentence up there over again. And again. Then go read Ruth. Then read the sentence. Get it straight and get it right: if you make a woman’s problems your problems, if you start noticing when a woman is down, and start finding little ways to help her, and single her out from the other ladies as a “special prayer concern” and find ways to talk to her privately, and start providing for her out of your own pocket, and doing what you can to help her/counsel her/sympathize with her/cry with her/hold her/etc. through her rough patches then don’t be surprised to find her snuggling up to you one day and saying, “Okay, I see where this is going. I accept. When are you going to propose?”

What’s that? You aren’t ready for that moment? That wasn’t your intention? Romance was the furthest thing from your mind?

….

Really? Was it really?

Search your heart. Search your heart.

But at any rate, please please understand this:

“Making a woman’s problems your problems is a romantic advance.”

That’s just the truth. And if you don’t realize this, you will break hearts, marriages, ministries and lives.

…of course it goes without saying that if you, as a single young man actually are interested in a girl – especially a girl with real, tangible needs, such as a single mother – then there could be no better way to begin making your intentions known than by caring for her in practical ways.

But again – if this is not your intention, then back off. You are crossing “the line.”

2) BEWARE OF FILLING THE “FATHER FIGURE” HOLE IN A WOMAN’S HEART

On the first pass, I wrote this section with the same confidence that I wrote the rest of the post. I was cautioned that there are legitimate exceptions, and now I am pondering that possibility. All I have is my own experience to go on, so I will share that and let you make up your own mind.

My wife and I had the opportunity several years ago to work very closely with a troubled young girl. I was completely new to this sort of thing, so I sought out Ivan Ramer (my mentor/pastor)’s wise advice. He could not have said any stronger than he did: “Be absolutely sure that you do not become the father figure to her. Your ages are too close. It will become romantic. Do not try to fill this void!”

After pondering this, I concluded that there is a hole in every girl’s heart that only daddy can fill. When this girl reaches her teens and early adulthood, a slight, healthy distancing is normal from her father – she is making room for another man in that compartment. She is looking for her man. Her husband. In an unhealthy relationship, or when the Father is MIA (missing in action), the hole is almost completely empty, and a girl may hit her teens with a great hunger for a man to fill this hole. (notice the “may” – there are exceptions to every rule, and I don’t mean to over-generalize).

Now here is the important thing to note: if you see a young woman/girl who is hurting, and you sense that she is hurting from a missing father, you must not try to step in and fill that hole in her heart unless you are serious about romance. When a man fils (or tries to fill) the father-hole, it is a romantic advance.

Now, I said that Ivan cautioned me that our ages were too close: it would have been interpreted as a romantic advance which either would have weirded her out or gone in a worse direction. I took Ivan’s advice and kept my heart very far from her: my wife did all the counseling/mentoring, and I gave behind-the-scenes support only. We have no regrets, and there are no stains on my reputation from that ministry opportunity.

What I found interesting was that in similar circumstances, a much older man who was married and had grown daughters of his own was in a similar situation. He told me that what this girl needed was a father figure, and he felt the ages were far enough apart that he and his wife could effectively fill that void to some degree. The results were not what he intended. The girl took his advances as a romantic advance and began spreading rumors (which I did not believe) that he tried to kiss her.

Is it ever valid for an old, married, emotionally mature man to fill the father-void in a young girl’s life? Has it happened to you? I have not seen it – would you care to share your story in reply to this post?

…but let us return to the main topic of the post. If you are young, if you are single, if your ages are very close, there is no denying or side-stepping the issue. If you step into the father-figure role, your advance will be interpreted romantically.

Again – romance is not a sin. If you’re single and she’s single and you find her attractive – go for it! But if you don’t have romance in mind, and especially if you are the same age, take my advice and do not ever try to fill the father-figure role in the life of a hurting young girl.

ROMANCE CAN BE A TOOL OF THE DEVIL, TO DERAIL GOD’S WORK IN YOUR LIFE

Yes, I meant that. No, I am not using hyperbole.

I do not care to count the number of times that I or people I am working with have been working with a new/young Christian who is making real progress when suddenly, out of the blue – here comes a romantic interest! …and that’s the end of it. All matters of God are forgotten or put on hold indefinitely: all time and energy which should be invested in pursuing God and renovating one’s tender heart is spent wooing and being wooed by another person.

As Paul said, (to paraphrase) “The man/woman who is single places all their attention on how to please the Lord: but the married person’s interests are divided. Their focus is on how to please their spouse.” (1 Cor. 7:32-34).

Of course, there is a time for one’s interests to be divided. There is a time to bring romance into the equation, and begin walking that fine line of honoring/caring for/cherishing one’s spouse, while still keeping God #1 in one’s life. However, two months after one gets saved, or a week after one dramatically re-commits their life to the Lord, or the summer that one is kicked out of their home, or (to summarize) the season of life when a person really really needs to do business with God is almost always (notice the exception clause) not the time for romance.

Usually – and I believe this strongly! – romance coming into a person’s life at these crucial seasons is a tool of the Devil, meant to derail God’s work in their lives. Romance is not a sin – but if it comes at the wrong time, it can derail a person’s spiritual life just as effectively as a new and lethal addiction.

Are you interested in romance with this woman? Well, have you considered her heart? Have you considered yours? How is your walk with the Lord? Are either of you in the midst of a crisis? Be brutally honest: are either of you (or both of you!) turning to a pseudo-romantic relationship, when you should be turning to the Lord?

In times of crisis, it is common to turn to old vices – cigarettes, porn, ice-cream, hoarding…and love (or pseudo-romance) when we should be turning to One who can really help us, God.

And that leads us to our final section…

THE WOMAN WHOSE HANDS ARE CHAINS

There is a woman who believes that “the right man/relationship will fix all of my problems.” Men are her idol, her addiction, her “solution.” Take my advice: pity the woman, pray for the woman, but men – stay far, far away. As Solomon wrote:

“I discovered more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are chains. One who is pleasing to God will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her.” Ecclesiastes 7:26

He elsewhere says it even more bluntly: (again, to paraphrase) “One of the most horrible situations on the earth is when an unloved woman finds a husband.” Proverbs 30:23

When a woman with an aching hole of lovelessness does not take her pain to the Lord to be healed and fixed by the Bride and Great Physician, but rather turns to a man…watch out. It is the most horrible of situations!

If you have met this woman, you know exactly what I am talking about.

How does a man get entangled with a woman like this?

Like one who takes a dog by the ears
Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.” (Prov. 26:17)

This is how it happens – a certain sort of man seeks out strife, calamity and heartache. Then he assumes that it is his responsibility to sort it out. He is always ankle-deep in everyone else’s business…and it is this sort of a person who gets tangled up with the loveless woman.

What is that? What motivates someone to believe they are the answer to every problem that they see – no matter how far away, how unrelated to themselves, or how little the Spirit is leading them?

In my experience, it is usually pride, and a messiah complex. It is the belief that they are God, and they are the answer to the world’s problems.

What is the result?

Far from leading a hurting woman to the Lord, you will inadvertently introduce romance into her life (as I hope I have convinced you that you will, if you make her problems your problems). The result would be the same if you handed her a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of wine. You are telling her, “When you hurt, turn to this as a solution.” Anything she turns to other than God will leave her dry and empty. And now, at that crucial stage when she should be turning to God and not to men, you will come alongside her and fill that void in her soul – if only partially, for a minute. And it will feel sooo goooood. She will want more. And more. And more. And you will enjoy the attention at first (that is the “snare” of it!). But once in, it will become more difficult. Soon, it will drain you. Then she will express frustration when you are not doing enough to fill the void in her soul (only God can fill it! It is infinite!!). “You don’t really love me!” She says, and her chains of guilt wrap tightly around you, motivating you to give it your all. But it will not be enough. It cannot be enough. You cannot fill the god-sized hole in her heart anymore than you could stretch your hand across the universe. She will ask for more…you will want to get out, get air, get free…she will be hurt when she senses your need for freedom from her…she will say, “well, if you don’t like me, just go already!”…the chains of guilt will snap tight like a noose, and you will try to make it up to her…she will express gratitude, and that will feel good…you will feel like you are making progress, when you are really only walking deeper into the trap….soon, you would give anything to be free. Someday, she will make you more miserable than death…

um…suggestion? Just don’t even start!

Avoid this whole cycle from the beginning by not getting into a pseudo-romantic relationship with a woman who is struggling/hurting. She needs a woman or a woman’s ministry to come alongside of her and lead her to Jesus – the last (and I do mean last!) thing that she needs is for some guy to come in and try to fill that void and loneliness with himself.

*  *  *

I write with force and vigor because I am serious. This is real stuff. Souls and hearts are on the line. Don’t mess around. Cross-gender counselling just does not work.

I write with a brutal edge because I have been there. I was the guy counseling girls, and trying to help them and ending up hurting them in the long run, when I was a teen. I regret, regret, regret my folly and my misguided heart. And I so much wish that I had come across an article such as this to set me straight sooner.

In my next post, I will answer some questions and objections which I would have raised to this sort of reasoning.

In the mean time, I would encourage you to write your resonses and feedack. Have you found this true in your experience? How so? Without stating names or places, are there situations where this has been true?

Do you disagree with me? Why? How so? Do you have scriptural or real-life experience to contradict me with?

I would love to hear your feedback. As I said, in my next post, I will respond to objections I know I would have raised: if others raise some serious objections I will try to deal with them also. As always, I am willing to change my beliefs and posts if I am proven wrong.

…just remember, saying “well, I do it, and I’m fine!” isn’t really a proof of anything except that this issue hits you personally and you believe differently than me. That is interesting, but what is really interesting (and worth talking about) is why you believe what you believe. That’s the sort of stuff I would love to hear.

RELATED POSTS:

Lust & Mental Purity (Matthew 5:28)

“Is it okay to give a girl a ride home after youth group?” 21 Reasons to Keep Your Reputation Absolutely Spotless

The Peter-Pan Syndrom

A Marriage Pre-Requisite Sermon

Idolatry and Worship of the True God (Youth Lesson Plan)

 

36 comments on “Why Young Men Should NEVER Counsel/Mentor/Disciple Young Women (Or Vice Versa) Part 1

  1. Melva says:

    I agree, but would go further… age is irrelevant. The romance trap may be present at all stages of life. Be circumspect in any cross-gender situation.

    • Josiah says:

      Like.

    • Cheeky says:

      I am grateful to come across this article. I have been a christian 3 years and in that time i have had a close friendship. Mentor/helper type relationship with a guy 10yrs older than me. He warned me about a guy who was his cousin who i was involved in romantically. His warnings proved true. I am from a small church. When i first came it was maybe 7 of us as the core saints. This guy who was a wolf within slandered me n i didnt know how to form relationships with women n found that they either werent helpful or came across unfamiliar and inexperienced in helping a newly converted raw sinner! I only had guy friends as a sinner. So whenever i got depressed n confused at condemned my good friend would only b a phone call away. He taught my sister and i many things n bought us bibles! I must admit we did silly things like stay up late alone in our cars together. Nothing ever happened, nor could happen. We care too much to act on carnality. we r like bros.God has used him so much to rebuke me when i was out of line abd rebellious n too ashamed to admit it to anyone else. I recently fell into serious demonic doctrine n almost ship wrecked my faith until he called me and all of a sudden the penny dropped that it was all false! I also once experienced a time of coldness in the church which i eventually had to confront, but my friend also came alongside me recognising i was in torment. Its sooo hard when someone does so much for u n is a great person to chat to. U can b real with them n not feel u hav to b a certain way. Eg i could swear around him or tell him shameful things of my past n not feel condemned for it. What im saying is, i never swear except once i was so angry, he happened to call me n i said “everything is just s###’. And i know he wouldnt see me any different. He is not one easily hurt n has expressed romantic feeling toward me before but he knows it aint gonna happen n i know he has an eye out for other women anyway. He sees me as a dear sister n protects me like a dad.

      The problem is, we hav often cut off contact when things got too intense n many times when we hav i hav made stupid mistakes. But i dont wanna b dependant on a man whom i dont love nor am married to. And the other thing is i am lovestruck by someone else who i am not close to but who has been an interest for 7months now, who happebs to b his brother. He is much more shy n the other outgoin n he knows i like his brother n was actually encouraging we b together. I dun think the bro knows i like him n besides he cud b intimidated by my friend n i coz we r close n he knows we tlk on phone n used to hang out alone sometimes.

      It looks like a mess i know. I jus cant seem to discount the importance of the things my friend has done for me. Im unsure where my faith would b without him but at same time maybe many hindrances he has brought too? Like for me to b on my own two feet, to get serious with female relations. N its like a counterfeit companion coz it fills the gap of loneliness n for him too. Its like we r both waiting for one to get married so we can let go! But i wonder wot this is really doin, maybe hindering Gods plan. Your thoughts r appreciated!!

      • Josiah says:

        I think your history and thoughts are right on. I think you said it perfectly: he has helped you a lot, and yet the relationship has become an attachment for both of you, Leaving you both stuck and there will be pain when you finally separate.

        I am praying for you that God leads you to a godly older woman or couple who can help mentor you for a season.

        If I could offer you two bits of advice, just based on what you said, it would be this:

        First, if you believe it is best for the two of you to separate, why wait until one or the other finds love? If you know you must separate, you can do so now. From what you said above, I think you know this is what you have to do.

        Second, I would just caution you that if you feel as though you are still young in the faith, still struggling with much sin and trying to find God’s will and power for your life, this may not be the time to pursue your friend’s brother or anyone for romance.

        In Ecclesiastes, it is written that there is a time for everything under the sun: the time to pursue love, and a time to not pursue love.

        It is very necessary to become strong in your faith, and to be fully reliant on Jesus for all of your emotional needs before starting a relationship with another person. Because only God can really fill our hearts with love.

        I truly pray that God will bring a godly woman into your life soon. My advice for finding a godly mentor is be BOLD, and be STRONG.

        Godly woman are there in your life – I’m sure there are some in your church that you know are godly and good examples for you. But you must be bold to ask them out for coffee, to talk about your life and your problems, and to ask them to help you and study the Bible and pray for you.

        And you must be strong. Because it is easy to have relationships with people of the opposite gender. But it really hurts to have relationships with mentors of the same gender. It’s very hard work, but like all of the important things in life, no pain no gain! It is easy to confess to a man, because he really does not understand your struggles, even though he pretends to. But a woman will not put up with your bull, if you know what I mean? This is what I have found to be true.

        And remember, mentors are human too. If one woman let you down, forgive her. If you are too hurt, look for another. But don’t give up – Be strong, and I’m sure God will lead you to the right person.

        May God bless you on your journey, and thank you for your kind comments!

        – Josiah

      • Cheeky says:

        Thankyou very much for your sound advice. It was given in wisdom and understanding but firmness. A part of me hated reading it coz i know its true that things need to b cut off. It has happened before, many times with him. But its a cycle of me going through something n he geberally finds out n comes to the rescue.

        Because it has happened like this before im thinking to myself its just gonna b temporary then he will b back in my life! But i did however buy a book on boundaries n i hope this helps me to build strong boundaries with men so this sort of thing doesnt occur anymore.
        I do have good godly women but many are busy and it is like u say i need to b strong n bold n not b afraid to get hurt. Many times i hav opened up to women n God has brought a helper my way but my pride hates seeking help from women esp wen i sense they cant relate to me or dont admit to. And esp when i feel insecure about it n think i shouldnt need help, when i myself am starting bible n prayer with a new convert to strengthen her walk. But i myself hav not had that connection with a lady before. Many women who r strong Christians r generally married n not the mentor type. They dont incline to teaching others. I have been hurt alot but i forgive. I know i myself am not perfect either.

        I yearn for that intimacy with God. I been ipening up much more to Him too. I will def pray though for a godly friend to team up with me. God is so patient in all this.

        So about this guy i like. I keep asking for God to remove him off my heart but a big part of me enjoys thinking about n praying for him n hopes things cud one day b. but God told me to wait coz its not time. I hav not pursued him but i simply like him.

        I do however long to focus on God will all my heart n mind. Do u think i can gain the intimacy n satisfaction in God even when i hav feelings for this man? Is it idolatry or wrong to have feelings for him?

        I think i will jus cut contact with my friend bit by bit n i know it shud die down but i really need strength for when things get tough that i am not vulnerable to opposite sex again. Sigh.

        Thankyou very much once again!

      • Josiah says:

        Well, it sounds like you know what to do. Follow God and follow Him foremost, and the rest will fall into place.

        Don’t be too troubled of your emotions. Just stop feeding them, and they will diminish gradually. But so long as God is first, your friend is not an idle.

        Yes, married women are very busy. Especially if they have kids! The best thing to do is to make yourself useful. Offer to babysit their children for free, so they can have a date night. Or come over for dinner and do the dishes and keep the children occupied.

        In a family with young children, all the adults are working all the time. There is not room for an adult who talks but does not work. But if you come and join in the work, you may be surprised at the opportunities for conversation that arise when helping with dishes, changing diapers, etc.

        My prayers are with you. Best of luck!
        – Josiah

  2. This is not a topic I have given a lot of thought to, but I think you said it well. And I am glad you addressed this! Nor have I personally experienced either side, however I’ve seen it from the outside and yes, the romantic message that is inadvertently sent. Esp. when you get a mid-late teen girl and a slightly older guy.

    I would not assume there would always be trouble in the case of a set of parents( with children around the same age as the “counseled” ) to counsel a young man or woman. It could work, I have seen it work. However, I think caution should be exercised that if it is a young woman, that the mother do most of the interaction and vice-versa for a young man. Perhaps the father, in that case, could provide protection for her in the same sense he does for his daughters. But for the sake of caution and abstaining from the appearance of all evil, he should never be alone with her, even if it is just him giving her a ride to somewhere.

    • Josiah says:

      You’re right. Some couples do have that ministry, and I have heard of/seen some legitimate cross-gender counseling. Still pondering why it sometimes works, and why it sometimes doesn’t. I’ll post on this soon.

      …but I think the one major difference is that all the cases I know of that work are older people whose hearts are solidly connected to their spouse, who are older, and who work out very defined ways of interacting. In public, with the spouse present, never going too deeply into the heart, etc. All these things are just not possible for two teenagers, or probably singles of any age.

  3. Chantel says:

    Thanks. This is something I’ve tried to express time and time again and it is all true. God gave older women the responsibility to mentor the younger, and older men the younger men, and mixing it up is only asking for trouble!

  4. Kaitlyn says:

    I agree 100% with everything that you have said, (I also agree with the person above who said that age makes no difference). I’m curious what your opinion is on men, who are actual counselors, what should they do? I personally feel that it’s still dangerous, even if it’s “just your job.” because you’re still getting involved with that person… then there’s the whole transference/countertransference thing… But yeah, I was just wondering what your perspective on that is? Because it seems a little… crazy? to turn away clients based on gender… Well, that’s the argument I’ve heard, I think it’s perfectly reasonable, or at least taking extreme cautions… Anyway, I’d love to know what you think! :)

    • Josiah says:

      I am not a counselor, and have basically 0 experience with it. That being said, the one counselor whose stuff I really have loved and benefited from is John Regier of “Caring for the Heart Ministries.” He seems to have a very ballanced and workeable solution. For one thing, he is never alone with a woman. He always asks her to bring her spouse or close girl-friend along or (if all else fails) he has his female secretary sit in. Secondly, when he gets to intimate details (for example, previous sexual sins, or the details of a rape) he has ways of dealing with the situation so that no emotional bond is created. If sins need to be confessed specifically, he gets her to confess them to the other person, not himself, or he asks her to just refer to them as “that incident,” without going into details.

      Also, when going deeply into a woman’s heart, he finds ways of guiding the husband or woman-friend into leading a person to freedom, rather than doing it himself. As I said, to make a woman’s problems your problems is a romantic advance. And so he has found ways to structure the situation so that it is the husband who is helping his wife (and thus, romantically advancing towards her) and there are not romantic bonds built towards him, as the counselor.

      I would highly recommend John’s stuff. http://www.caringfortheheart.com/

  5. Alberta says:

    Just came across this article. I am going through this situation now–my husband “counceled” his female cousin and thought that because they were cousins it was safe. At first he was flattered by her admiration and now she’s infatuated with him and he wants nothing to do with her. Of course, I am hurt by all of this and she is hurt by his sudden rejection. I have always been taught to never share intimate details of your life with members of the opposite sex. My husband is just beginning to learn some of these principles–let’s hope he learns quick. Thanks for the great article.

    • Josiah says:

      Whether related or not, she is still a red-blooded human.
      Can a man take fire in his bosom
      And his clothes not be burned?
      Or can a man walk on hot coals
      And his feet not be scorched? (Prov. 6:27-28)
      God put some pretty powerful chemical and emotional flames in the heart of a man and a woman. His purpose, obviously, was to draw man and wife together and keep them passionately in love for life. But if one allows their heart to wander too close to another, the sparks will inevitably fly – for them, or the other party. That is why we need to guard, above all, our hearts for it is the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23)

  6. This may not be a comparable scenario but I think an older man can fulfill some sort of “fatherly” roles in a young woman’s life if done cautiously. For example, I (then a highschooler) and a group of Christian friends (both guys and girls) had a teacher/pastor who would meet with us for lunch every once in a while and catch up on our lives and advise us etc.. We all respected him as the wise middle aged man he was. A few of the girls there who had somewhat uninvolved fathers often asked if they could have his approval in their romantic interests etc. It was clear to everyone that he was not trying to take their father’s place, but he would still give his humble opinion, and they would express their appreciation. I noticed that it was always in groups, and occasionally his wife came along.Thus a relationship between a middle aged man and young women seems to have been fine.
    I really appreciate your solid stance on this subject! For young people looking for wisdom in such areas it is really much more helpful to be told this in a straightforward way than to be given a bush wacking response too afraid to ruffle any feathers. Unfortunately I had to learn some of these things the hard way, but the Lord is gracious and provides a way of escape.
    I might comment that the phenomenon of social networking and text conversing seems to be a contributor to a rise in such issues. If a young man or woman wants some cross-gender babying, the courage to exercise the vocal chords isn’t even required! All they need is a phone-number or the acceptance to a friend request. Firsthand, I have experienced this issue, and I could list many others who have as well. People are much less afraid to go straight to the deep personal matters when they’re only communicating with text on a screen, and since text/emails/messages etc. SEEM so innocent and casual, it’s much easier to fall into the trap…not to mention that the “weirdness” of the relationship reaches a whole new level…
    I would love to hear your opinion on how one would best remove oneself from such a relationship. As a Christian woman who has felt much guilt for rudely “backing out” of a situation I suddenly realized was taking a romantic turn I didn’t think I was soliciting, I would love to hear your opinion on striking the balance without completely/strangely annihilating a friendship and on maintaining an acquaintanceship after the issues have been resolved.
    Thanks!

    • Josiah says:

      Thank you for that reply, Chased! I think it really adds to this post.

      I do agree there is a bit of wiggle room on this topic. However, when it comes to teens and hormones, “Give em an inch and they’ll take an ell” as the saying goes. There probably IS a way for an older man to fill some of that father role – especially with his wife involved, and in group settings. However, there’s a fine danger line. What if only one of the girls shows up for coffee? What if she shows up in tears, broken over something that her Father said, or because her boyfriend left her?
      Oh be careful little mouth what you say….
      As far as breaking it off nicely? Hm…perhaps I am not the person to answer that. But you asked me so nicely that I feel I must try!
      I can tell you one situation that occurred to me recently, where I was on the receiving end. I had a class with a female teacher (much older than I). During and after class we had one rather prolonged (but amicable!) discussion about women, teaching and 2 Tim. Also, myself and two other students stayed after to pray, and some of us were moved to tears, the moment was that powerful.
      Since then I have asked her for information on this or that topic that I am working on. She always replies promptly – usually within the hour.
      When I graduated, she replied to a request for information, and included a personal note congratulating me. I replied with some of my fears that I was getting too old already, and that this degree was too little too late to make me a “real” scholar in time, and that I wished I was studying Greek rather than French (I am preparing to go into missions, but some days I feel pulled back to academia).
      To this, she replied nothing.
      A few days later, I asked for info again and she again gave me a quick and helpful response – but when it came to a discussion about my private thoughts/feelings, she just wasn’t interested. That was over “that line.”
      And so how did I feel? At first it stung a little. I thought, “well, it wasn’t THAT personal!” but then I thought a bit more about it, and realized that everyone has a line in a slightly different place. She had kindly but firmly told me where hers was, and now I could proceed as normal, just don’t cross the line.

      In general, I think that when you want to communicate “you’re over the line” with a guy/girl, the best way to do so (especially in a work situation) is to be extra professional. Greet them by their formal/professional name. Show up to appointments promptly, leave exactly when they’re over. Speak of business. Be especially courteous, and on your best behaviour like you would be with a stranger.
      All this should communicate the message.
      If you are “feeling” that someone is crossing your personal line, talking about it with them is probably not the best option. It verbalizes some sexual tension between the two of you, and bringing it into the light will make it grow. Best to send non-verbal signals that you are “not interested,” and use words only when he/she “just doesn’t get it.”

      But all this is based on a relationship that has not progressed. If a reader is “in deep” with a guy/girl, that they started off counselling and ended up in a weird, quasi-emotional relationship, then I am afraid that they will need to “break off” the relationship in much the same way that you would break up with a “real” girl/boy friend.

      There are worse ways to do this, but I’m not sure if there are better ways. It will be painful any way you slice it – and it underscores the message of this post, that you are FAR better just not getting involved in the first place!!

  7. CrisisOfFaith says:

    A friend of mine sent me the link to these well-articulated thoughts. I actually heartily agree, but as you might expect, I feel that I’m in a scenario that is an “exception.” I have been married for several years and have a child, and in the past year my husband and I have both come to question the faith we grew up with. We’re searching and needing guidance, and I initially reached out to women for this. He didn’t want to reach out to anybody, because he is afraid his doubts will weaken another’s faith. The women I reached out to were close friends and mentors, and they were very encouraging–but my doubts and questions about the goodness of God went beyond anything they had considered. They had the accepting faith of a child that I covet, and they all finally said they don’t know how to help me. I am in graduate school, and there is a ministry provided by a local church to Christian students at my school (which is actually very secular). One of my former professors spoke at a gathering of this ministry one evening, and I realized I had found someone who had walked through the same kind of doubts I walk through and whose faith survived. I finally, after many weeks, mustered up the courage to email him. We had never met, even when he was my professor (large class), and I don’t think he even remembered who I was. Regardless, he was open to a correspondence with me about devastating doubt and a way through it from an intellectual standpoint (without having to resort to “blind acceptance,” which I’m finding a lot of people struggle with in the world of academia). He is 14 years older than I am. He is married with three children. We set boundaries in the beginning–we will never “meet up” to discuss these things (or for any reason) unless our families are present, and we copy our spouses on all emails. I would say we send each other on average 6 emails per month–we often go week-long periods without communicating at all because life gets hectic with school and a child for me and work and three kids for him. We get our families together for meals and conversation occasionally. He and my husband have their own friendship now, and have made plans to share meals together on occasion–since communicating in writing about such personal issues is not my husband’s “thing.” The four of us (my professor, myself, and our spouses) all seem happy with this arrangement, and I can’t foresee any romantic interest developing EVER (although it would be prideful and dangerous to say it’s impossible–no one is immune to life-wrecking sin). We have a lot in common (which is probably why we have struggled in faith so similarly), but he is not the kind of person I would be attracted to even if I were unmarried. I see him as something like an older brother–and I actually have two brothers within a year of his age, one older and one younger. It’s a similar dynamic when our families spend time together. I am no longer in a class that he teaches (and won’t be in the future), so there is no professional conflict of interest.

    I guess I’m just curious to hear your thoughts. I used to say that a cross-gender setup was never appropriate, but I feel that this setup works well, since we acknowledged the possibility of evil entering into our relationship with our very first communication–and set boundaries accordingly. I have a friendship with his wife that I look forward to growing in, and he has one with my husband. I don’t see a problem–but I obviously have a female friend who is concerned, or I wouldn’t have received a link to this blog :).

    I think the real danger is in believing that things could never possibly become inappropriate, and failing to take appropriate safeguards. Since we addressed that from the beginning and made it imperative that we avoid even the appearance of wrong-doing, I feel very safe with this correspondence. I never would have reached out to a man if I hadn’t been at the end of my rope, and if his thoughts didn’t so closely echo mine. I’m so glad I did, though. What do you think?

    • Josiah says:

      Thank you for your good comment!
      As I mentioned to someone else recently, I wrote this post very firmly because with young people, if you allow for a bit of an exception, they will assume THEY are the exception and ignore everything you are saying.
      But I actually think you are following a lot of the principles behind this post, even though technically not following the post. It sounds like you are careful not to become emotionally involved (talking about the problems of your heart is not the same as asking him to emotionally support you through your problems). Also, the act of getting your spouses involved, and having an open relationship keeps the flame from growing between you.

      So if your situation is just as you described it, I would be inclined to think that you DO have a good exception to the rule. However, if you start taking components of your situation away, I would become less sure.

      For example, if a much younger woman – and especially a young single girl – was involved in the same situation I would feel very hesitant no matter what anyone involved said. It takes a lot of sexual/emotional maturity to be able to have a deep and NON sexual/romantic relationship with the opposite sex. Sounds like you have it down. And probably many people who have been happily married for a half-decade or more, who are growing in maturity and in the Lord, would be able to do so. But a teen? Not likely.

      I respect your willingness to read this whole post, right to the end, even though it seems you were directed here just because you are “not doing it right” in someone’s eyes.

      I wish you well in your wrestlings!

      By the way, I too am one who grows through doubts and struggles. If you’re interested in following some of my journey, you can click on the “select category” tab, then read “about me/intellectual journey.” If there are specific topics you are struggling with, I may be able to direct you to a post or two in my archeives.

      God bless!

  8. Maleriah Makensi Marie Morris-Manning says:

    can you quote 2 Tim. 2:2, and Titus 2? becaus i dont know what that is

    • Josiah says:

      Certainly! In the future, you can use http://www.biblegateway.org for finding any Bible verse. Great site! :-)
      2 Timothy 2:2
      New International Version (NIV)
      2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
      Titus 2:1-6
      New International Version (NIV)
      Doing Good for the Sake of the Gospel

      2 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

      3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

      6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

  9. Cheeky says:

    Thanks Josiah
    God is so awesome! We had a sermon at church on giving God our burdens, coming to Him first and not others but coming to Him with everything n then He will bring ppl ure way to speak to u!

    Also about not being distracted in our service to Him like Martha but to b careful of the spirit that is behind our service, to be taking heed always to His words to us.

    Thanks for your encouragement n your article already affirming wot God was speaking to my heart! It is a bit scarey letting go but God will b with me each step n He will give the grace to obey!!!

    Blessing to u!

    • Josiah says:

      Hi Andrew. I’d love to talk more. But I am curious why you haven’t responded to the previous comment. Is there a problem in the technology? Are you able to see what I have written?

      I hear your criticism of the “sinners prayer,” and understand how it can become a dead meaningless ritual. I also freely admit that it’s missing key doctrines like the Lordship of Christ and his resurrection. But more importantly, it can become something like a meritorious work for salvation. Or a magical right through which people could be saved.

      I guess that in spite of all that, I would still be comfortable leading someone through the sinners prayer. The resurrection of Jesus would be covered in the larger discussions (I was assuming that if he is a Catholic, he would already know Jesus rose from the dead for his sins). I would also continue the discussion into a discipling relationship after he had accepted Christ through the sinners prayer.

      Just about any way you could summarize the gospel would be heresy, since it would leave out some essential doctrine. However, one needs to think of how to explain it simply, and fill in some of the gaps later on.

      Concerning the Lordship of Christ… You’re absolutely right! I’m going to go and change that part of the post. A call to salvation really should conclude by telling people to follow Jesus. For some people, that would be obvious. But it should be made explicit.

      We do not accept Jesus as Savior first, and Lord someday if we feel like it. We follow Jesus Christ as Lord, and thus we are saved. So in that point, I received your correction with gratitude!

    • Josiah says:

      Great! Glad to hear it! God bless you!

  10. Samuel says:

    This issue has been brought to my attention and it is something that I have been wrestling with. My brother in Christ challenged me regarding this and the next day I wound up at this blog and it is enough to convict me that it is something that God is telling me. However it leaves me with questions.

    I have repeatedly found myself in counselling relationships with women my age. In hindsight, the pattern that has emerged in this only serves to reiterate everything that has been said here. One ended up falling for me and getting hurt, another fell for me and we wound up in an unhealthy romantic relationship, another relationship imploded because we couldn’t communicate effectively because she doesn’t trust men. I have not spoken with these women for over six months simply because It became obvious that I was doing only more harm than good. This is enough to confirm that there is obviously something to what is being said here.

    The problem I’m facing is that I am currently in a counselling relationship with a girl. We refer to eachother as brother and sister. To my, albeit limited, knoweldge, there has been no attraction on the side of either party, and I know that counsel that I’ve given her was effectively communicated and received. After about a year of this counselling relationship, I was introduced to a new church that has become my church home. Recently, I have felt the convicted to lead her to be engaged at this church where there are many women who are very well equipped to be her sisters and build her up.

    My problem is that the idea that I have been able to effectively counsel this girl (even if only for a time) goes against the seemingly sound advise that I am now hearing. My experience counselling this girl appears to go against (or be an exception to) not only your counsel, but the pattern of failure in my own past.

    How to proceed with her is not the dillemma: encourage her to connect with a group of girls at this church. The dillemma is this: if it is inappropriate across the board to counsel a woman outside of dating/marriage and family, then basically what just happened? In my, granted limited, perspective I only can see positive development having resulted from God having spoken through me into her life.

    Any input is welcome and appreciated. As much as all that has been said in this blog makes sense, it perplexes me even more.

    God bless.

    • Josiah says:

      Great question!

      I think we need to keep in mind that God can use imperfect circumstances to do His perfect work.

      He used sinful astrology to get the “wise men” to Jesus & the birth. He used Jacob’s sneakiness to fulfill His calling. He has called people to salvation through drug-induced visions, He has saved prostitutes through people who were witnessing to them while visiting strip clubs. I could mention numerous men who were saved when their wives broke the command of 2 Cor. 6:14 and married a non-believer. And one of the men I have invested the greatest amount of time in mentoring, and whom I believe in the most, was converted because someone from the youth group practiced what can only be called “flirt to convert” on him.

      All that to say…if this worked out for you than PRAISE GOD! Be happy that God spared you both the heartache of things going poorly. He’s like that, and we’re like that. Sometimes He comes into our mess, and makes everything glorious. Move on and be grateful, but remember that what you did was ill-advized, and that you have received grace here. So don’t let God’s mercy in this case counteract what you have learned to be God’s wisdom in the other cases.

      Make sense?

      By the way, I’m very proud of you for taking steps in this regard, and for your attitude in recognizing your mistakes. I think you’ve put your future marriage and ministry on a very sound footing. God bless!

    • young christian says:

      hi. I am 18 years old and active in cell ministry. I have a girlfriend and we are strong in the Lord and are remaining pure.

      I have a problem. I recently befriended an old friend from my old church and she has many issues. I started advising her and she now trusts me and confesses etc. I desire to get her to find her identity in Christ. its been a few months and I fear we are too close and sometimes I feel like I have a crush. what can I do? if I cut the friendship off it may hurt her and I fear she may have no guidance as she goes to a very undirected church… please help? I dont know what to do

      • Josiah says:

        This is a great question. It is very difficult to break that sort of relationship and you are right to be worried about where she will turn for help. The reality is that there often are not good ministries for young women like that.

        I’d like to pray about this and talk with my wife. I’ll reply in a few days when I feel God has given me an answer, okay?

  11. […] This complexity is a fact butchered in discussions by many Christians addressing male-female ministerial relationships.  It makes men out to be monsters, women to be seductresses, and, again, the relationships between them to lead inevitably to sex or romance. […]

  12. Cheeky says:

    Hey,
    Its been a while but im back to share the good news of what God has done! If u look on my previous posts u will c the predicament i was in with a few things. I cut the ties with my male friend. We are still good friends but we dont really talk on the level we used to. And a lady whom i met before salvation who is a Christian, whom led me to Christ has been in touch with me. She is much older in the Lord and experienced many things. We have been in touch alot this past month. She doesnt go to my church n lives in another state but shes closest to my heart n thinking than anyone. God speaks to her about me n she really prays for n ministers to me in the Lord. It dawned on me that God answered your prayers n mine for a godly mentor, i jus didnt expect it to happen the way it has. We are like mother n daughter in the Lord as she has seen me progress from darkness to light n is always deeply concerned for me. She is an inspiration n example to my life n i never thought things could b like this. It is a blessing! Thankyou Josiah, God has answered both our prayers. Keep powering on in your work coz u r touching lives n compelling many to change their ways n thinking! Amen!

  13. […] This complexity is a fact butchered in discussions by many Christians addressing male-female ministerial relationships. It makes men out to be monsters, women to be seductresses, and, again, the relationships between them to lead inevitably to sex or romance. […]

  14. Michael Gabriel says:

    please how do you advice one who romances his or her brother or sister?

    • Josiah says:

      If you’re feeling attractions, know that it is normal to be tempted (1 Cor. 10:13). It is not a sin to be tempted, because Jesus was also tempted (Heb. 4:15). Temptations come from good things twisted by sin into lustful desires (Jam. 1:14-15). Temptations come from Satan, the World and the Devil. Good people can be tempted to do evil things, bad people can be encouraged to do good things.

      Temptations do not define who you are: the word of God defines who you are. Scriptures teach it is wrong to have a sexual/romantic relationship with a sibling (Lev. 18:9), so you can know that is not God’s plan for you.

      If you have sinned, repent of your sin and pray for healing and a release from the slavery of sin. Make no provision for the sinful component of your flesh: cut off all possibility of encouraging sexual attractions towards your sibling.

      If this has been an ongoing thing, you may need the help of a local pastor or counsellor. Make sure it is a TRUSTED counsellor who knows how to steward a very volatile issue appropriately, and who will be able to deal with the intricacies of your particular situation.

      Just a word here…if you are a teenager, and you are talking about confusing feelings of attraction to your teenage sister I would advise you not to make too big of a deal out of this. Deal with it by God’s grace and with the truth of Scriptures, repent of all sin…but understand that although powerful and confusing, sexual impulses are a normal part of being human. You need to learn to redirect your focus, and find purity in Christ. But be careful not to label your attractions anything that they are not. You may need nothing more than a cold shower, time in Scriptures and an evening out with friends to help you refocus. I don’t want to give you any false hope, but many people find that especially in Christ, the raging confusion of puberty settles out into a much calmer season of maturity and self-control later on. Of course, conquering pornography and other dangerous traps are key to this form of freedom.

      These are matters a trusted, closer counsellor or friend would be able to walk through with you.

  15. anonymous writer says:

    If you are so opposed to cross gender mentoring or counselling why do you continue to mentor and counsel women via this blog? Just a thought for you to consider. To say it doesn’t work and you should abstain and then to turn around and do it here shows me that you may have to reconsider your motives and choose a side to stand on. Write and warn about it if you don’t believe in it, but then don’t turn around and start giving advise and counsel on the subject to women on your blog. Catch my drift? Let your yes be yes and your no be no, sparing readers the double-mindedness of your statements and the follow up actions, it’s confusing.

  16. Godpower says:

    U ar correct and i promise to apply it by God grace

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