Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

#193 Hooking up with the youth pastor

counseling2.jpgThis is a time-honored evangelical tradition which Christian culture is loath to speak of, yet everyone who grew up in Christian culture knows youth pastors (plural) who were deposed due to the dubiously defined Moral Failure. And those are just the ones who were caught.

The youth pastor’s fall from grace is never less than gory. Once found out he will either make a tearful public confession, feebly defend his shredded reputation, or both. He is then ceremoniously fired and flees town under a spectacular shower of emotional fallout while the abandoned youth group reels from this strange new trauma which Christian culture has no idea how to handle. In their heads they replay the years of Purity Talks he gave whilst conducting clandestine activities on the side.


realmenlovejesus.jpg Post-scandal, these pastors sometimes go on to be youth pastors in other churches. This usually happens even with the hiring church’s full knowledge of his past. Youth pastor gets older, high school girls stay the same age.

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posted September 28, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Don’t forget the ones who end up marrying members of their youth group shortly after the student ages out!

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posted September 28, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Sad but true. Luckily, people of Faith are being more bold in calling the police on these offenders.
I appreciate the tongue-in-cheek tone and hope it fires some people up to be more vigilant.

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posted September 28, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Oh boy. This happened in my youth group… kind of. They were already dating, and they were the same age (she was a youth volunteer), and I don’t think it was until after they got married that it came out, and he actually didn’t get fired, it was all “worked out” somehow.
The way it was presented was misleading though, and I only found that out this year (it was like probably almost 15 years ago). We were led to believe it was a one time deal, but it had actually been going on for a long time. Anyway, it totally crushed our youth group, but I don’t really remember what the fallout was. They now have 3 beautiful girls and live in the Yukon.
Your so good at calling this stuff out Steph!

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posted September 28, 2010 at 10:24 pm

My first thought whenever discussions of pastors and sexual affairs come up is about a particularly horrific example of a cover up under the guise of religion (trigger warning, sorry I can’t fix the link name):,0
Given the worldwide occurrence of child abuse and institutionally condoned rape, I know this is not a Christian-specific problem. But when there is a problem with church culture, faith can be harmed, and this particular kind of problem is very harmful to faith. I was raised Catholic, and for a while, I was able to maintain my faith in the church through believing that the priests who abused and raped children were not representing the church or Christ. However, reconciling with my faith the repeated cover-ups became more of a struggle because of the church kept doing the same awful things, over and over, and only (barely) apologized once they got caught. It’s hard to stay in communion with that.
I know this is more of a blog about Christian Culture, but maybe Christian Culture can learn something from the problems of another Christian culture.

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posted September 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Dear Ms. Drury,
I have three (3) responses to this post. Please choose which one you feel is most appropriate.
Dear Ms. Drury,
As a former youth pastor who never once had an inappropriate relationship with any of the youth I served (male or female), I am deeply offended by the sweeping generalization of youth pastors intimated in this post.
Please cancel my subscription. Despondently, Lee
Dear Ms. Drury,
This post reflects a serious problem that too many churches too often ‘sweep under the rug.’ Your comment that ‘these pastors sometimes go on to be youth pastors in other churches. This usually happens even with the hiring church’s full knowledge of his past’ is a damning indictment to all the churches involved in such a scandal, not only the hiring ones. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of your readers.
Thankfully, Lee
Dear Ms. Drury,
I thought this was only a Catholic priest problem.
Just wondering, Lee

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posted September 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I was just going to give an example of that very same phenomenon!

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posted September 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm

This happened not just at one of my churches but BOTH.
At the one I spent my teen years, the youth pastor we had(may I mention the only good one…) was fired as soon as I turned 18. In his place was a toothy 25 or so year old.
Long story short. He played tonsil hockey with quite a few of the teen girls. Was fired and the pastor put his Lindsay Lohan esque daughter up as youth pastor.
The church I attended as an adult, there was a guy who was the “unoffical youth pastor” because 1) he was kind(not scary like the REAL one) and 2) he’d be on the level with you..
Or so we thought. He had an affair with an underaged ex-addict and kept her in said relationship by giving her..yes..drugs.
The cell group that he led was devestated, and the whole youth church started to try and figure out what other sexual sins were going on at the church.
By this time, my cell leader(who was sleeping with a member of the cell), moved to florida….so they couldn’t fuss at him.
The guy who cheated on his wife with the teen left and no one knows where he is because he was kicked out of the church because he refused to repent.
I don’t know what happened after because I aged out.

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ben parsons

posted September 29, 2010 at 12:05 am

i tried once, but he said i was too old.
(yeah, kidding)

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posted September 29, 2010 at 12:26 am

This happened to a friend of mine. She was married to the youth pastor when he had an affair with a college student who was helping out with the youth group. My friend and the youth pastor mutually agreed that divorce was best (he was, after all, “in love” with the college student) and she is now happily remarried and involved in a different church. I don’t know what happened with him exactly – she was considerate enough not to gossip – but he is no longer a pastor.
This kind of thing should be rare among religious people, but sadly, it’s not.

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Jeremiah Warren

posted September 29, 2010 at 3:15 am

I’ve never seen this first hand, but the greatest predictor of infidelity is opportunity.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 6:37 am

I went to Jr. High with a girl who ended up ‘dating’ and then marrying her youth pastor when she was 17. Perhaps predictably, he was caught with a 14-year old in the youth group a couple years later and went to prison for a while…
Stephy, you have laser accuracy with these things. And your wit is fearfully and wonderfully wicked.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 10:04 am

I’ve never personally known this to happen, just read about similar cases in the news. The two experiences I’ve had with Youth Pastors is a) overworked and underpaid, and b) super lazy youth pastors. By the way, nice reference to Dazed and Confused… “you got any beer? No. Be a lot cooler if you did.” And… “Watch the leather, man.”

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George, American

posted September 29, 2010 at 11:51 am

This has happened at the main Baptist church in my town no less than three times. One of the girls who notoriously harangued me about “gettin’ saved” in my high school actually wound up pregnant by youth pastor numero dos. Numbers one and three were either dismissed or went to jail… I wouldn’t really know because I don’t go to church.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm

YIKES. The stunning frequency of this phenomenon becomes clear if one follows Dan Savage’s “Youth Pastor Watch.” He says that kids are safer in gay bars than they are in churches. Woo buddy, CC doesn’t like that!

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posted September 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Jeremiah, your point is taken, but there are deeper transgressions her than simple infidelity.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Stephanie – love the posts. If you got hold of a good comic artist, you could publish a book that would be read, and burned, by the thousands. Good stuff

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posted September 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Wait, I thought this blog was “Stuff Christian Culture Likes” not “Stuff Christian Culture Stands Around Pretending It Never Happened”

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stephanie drury

posted September 29, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Yeah, Christian culture likes pretending unpleasant stuff didn’t happen. That should actually be in the bylines.
Sean, your comment is wonderful. I know that full well.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Anonymous wrote, “This kind of thing should be rare among religious people, but sadly, it’s not”.
Actually there is absolutely no evidence to suggest sinful (read: harmful, painful, predatory) behaviors are less likely among religious people. Believing that the men and women of your faith or culture are superior or immune only gives the predatory and fallen greater opportunity. It also impairs the healing of the victims.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Oh, gross. What horrible taste.
I refused to go to youth groups after confirmation, figuring there was no chance of improvement in the group immaturity or the vapid religiosity. In short, not enough bright and selfconfident girls. :)

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posted September 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Predators go where the “prey” is.
But last week, CT published an article that had quotes from people in one church who said that their kids were “safe” even though they’re welcoming admitted pedophiles (and other sex offenders) into that church.
I just want to yell at CT for that article. Much too easy on sex offenders, not nearly concerned enough about the people they will affect if they’re allowed in the doors.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Jona, my kid has been in a gay bar. But never a church. And I plan to keep it that way.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 1:11 am

If this (the occurrence of such heinous crap) isn’t a sign that CC’s focus is NOT in the right place, I’m not sure what is.

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Still Breathing

posted September 30, 2010 at 6:39 am

Confession time – I went out with a girl who was a member of the church youth club I was helping to run and I also taught her in Sunday School. She was 16 and I was 22 and we have now been married for 30 years.
Our son is now a ‘part time youth worker’ at a local church but he has managed a different twist to the story – he started going out with one of the other youth workers. They tried to be quiet and discreet about it but bumped into most of the youth group on one of their first dates!

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posted September 30, 2010 at 8:30 am

Oddly enough since the cover ups in the Catholic church has been exposed the number of reports of NEW abuse has dwindled down to almost nothing. The things being reported now are coming from adults who are finally coming forward with their stories. The moral of the story is accountability works.
Now we are seeing similar stories from adults now coming forward who grew up in PROTESTANT churches.
Its everywhere…being Catholic or Protestant has nothing to do with it. Being married or not apparently has nothing to do with it either.
We need more accountability and strict youth protection policies in these churches.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 3:28 pm

I’m a female youth pastor… in my church, as in my husband’s old church, we have a strict policy that says no youth leaders are allowed to be one-on-one with youth of the opposite sex. So if one of the girls needs a ride home, I have to come with my hubby for the drive. This not only prevents problems but also prevents false accusations against youth leaders. I think every church should have this.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Mary, I think the intent of your policy is right on, but unfortunately it won’t prevent situations like what (allegedly) happened with Bishop Long.
I think Christian Culture likes to pretend that same-sex predation:
1. Is equal to being gay, since both homosexuality and pedophilia are classified as ‘sin’ in mainstream CC, and therefore
2. Does not exist in churches, especially church leadership, since sexual sin is so unthinkable, unapproachable, unacceptable, and unspeakable.
This is a massive blind spot that results in children who are traumatized–usually for life. And it pisses me off.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I was just thinking about this right before reading this post. A friend from high school recently married her former youth pastor. They started dating right after she turned 18 and he was 31. At the time I think me, along with her other friends, tried to be cool and act like it was normal. But it’s a little creepy now that I’m thinking about it – like, how into her was he when she was still underage? Did he think about her during youth group? How did it suddenly become OK and not weird when she turned 18?
Not to mention the fact that they hid their relationship for almost 4 years. AND she was the senior pastor’s daughter.

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Another Sarah

posted October 1, 2010 at 11:38 am

Reading Mary’s comment about church policies intended to prevent this stuff (and possibly worse stuff) made me think of all the similar policies that have been adopted by organizations that work with youth, such as the “3 deep rule” in which there are always three people(regardless of gender) in a given space and situation. The idea is that there’s either 2 adults and a kid or 2 kids and an adult and it reduces the opportunity for both abuse and false accusations.
Also, as a volunteer who works with youth, I have to have regular criminal records checks. If these are not normal procedures in churches for volunteers and employees who work with youth(I haven’t done youth group work so I don’t know), maybe they should be. These things don’t prevent all incidents but they do lead to awareness and make the environment less friendly to potential predators.
And if they are not, it does seem pretty clear that the “but we’re Christians and this is a church” denial is likely a big part of the reason, because the odds are good, the local sports teams do have such policies.

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posted October 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

Unfortunately I am not sure that a 3 deep rule would prevent stuff happening outside of sanctioned events, such as the pastor meeting up privately with a youth. Sick. And look, they found another one. UGH.

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posted October 1, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Just thinking about a “3 deep rule” leads me to impure thoughts.

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Paul Wilkinson

posted October 1, 2010 at 9:19 pm

My first reaction was, “I’m glad this is on her blog, and not mine.” This is rather edgy stuff.
But then I read the comments…
BTW, a little surprised nobody’s mentioned it to this point, but a must-read on this topic is Anne Jackson’s new book, Permission to Speak Freely.

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stephanie drury

posted October 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm

My youth pastor mentioned the 3 deep rule but I don’t think he was talking about being supervised.

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Sarah Teibo

posted October 3, 2010 at 3:34 am

As a youth worker myself and a lady, I understand probably too well what goes on in youth fellowships. There need to be rules to protect the young people. There also need to be rules to protect the youth leaders. I have seen subtle seduction from girls to their male leaders (even with others present). Accountability is critical. When a youth pastor senses the onset of inappropriate feelings for a girl (or guy), he needs to do three things:
1. Understand that this is natural, as it is natural to be tempted.
2. Resist the temptation. Do not allow it grow into a feeling that can no longer be contained. This could mean reducing the amount of time spent around this person or getting someone else to be their contact person. Do whatever it takes to prevent the feeling from growing. The mistake Christians make sometimes is denying what they feel until it overwhelms them.
3. Get an accountability partner. Someone trustworthy, probably more spiritually mature than you that can be confided in and with whom you can pray and from whom you can receive good counsel.
At the end of the day, we are all human. The only thing that differentiates the Christian is that we (should) have the better way of handling lifes issues.

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Mary C.

posted October 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I attended a CC school for a few years where the principal had an affair with the female student president and another male teacher would get the male students drunk and molest them. The principal had done something similar at another school-but no one ever followed up his references…and similarly, he just went “away”. The teacher skipped the country when one of the student’s parents tried to sue him…grossgrossgross.
I know we all have these kinds of stories and I don’t know what the answer is-but I’m in a secular environment now and when things like this happen, there seem to be larger repercussions. (Law,sexual harrasement training etc) instead of just “Praying” it away. After years in christian environments and seeing numerouos abuses of power, I don’t trust must people in positions of “Spiritual authority”.

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Christine Woodman

posted October 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm

What you wrote is true, but sad. It inspired me to write about the topic on my own site.

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stephanie drury

posted October 13, 2010 at 2:12 pm

That was an excellent post, Christine! Everyone should take a look at it.

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posted October 15, 2010 at 10:14 am

“Youth Pastor keeps getting older, high schools girls stay the same age…. alright alright alright” Brilliant!

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posted February 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm

It’s in every religion and always has been. We just talk about it now.

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