Next Generation Leaders: The Necessity of Guardrails

In the first part of this series, I shared my own journey as a 19 year-old entering ministry through a 9 month discipleship program at a mega-church and taking on leadership through my twenties. And how at 25 I entered my first serious relationship that led to a moral failure. Even though I had some of the best training from some of the most respected leaders in the world, I still fell.

It wasn't even because I was necessarily given too much too soon (a common issue today). In fact, I often got frustrated at the slow pace I seemed to move at! Honestly, I can boil it down to one major point I never learned in all those years: GUARDRAILS.

Sure, I was told not to do a lot of things; a list of don'ts to follow. But I never really learned what it meant to establish healthy, practical boundaries to protect me from going to those "don'ts." It wasn't anyone's fault either; in fact, I didn't even think to do this myself and I have no one to blame but myself.

Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for Propel Women that describes what I learned from my own experience with boundaries.

I had a list of things I’d never do; a list I adopted from mentors, friends, groups, teachings, and the Word of God. I would never drink. I would never cheat or steal. I would never have sex outside of marriage. The list went on. I put the possibility of ever compromising or giving in to these temptations completely out of my mind. “I would never” and so I never thought about it. But that was my biggest mistake.

Because I never accepted the possibility of compromise, I never properly guarded myself and established the boundaries I needed to avoid the very things I said I’d never do.


Looking back, I see how my story echoes that of Peter’s a bit in Matthew 26. On the night Jesus was arrested he tells his disciples that they will deny him. Peter speaks out but what he really does is rebuke Jesus. He tells Christ that he’ll never deny him; even if he must die with Christ he will be there until the end.

That night Peter does the very thing he said he would never do. Three times Peter denies Christ, each with greater emphasis—the first with a simple denial, the second with a swear, and the third with a curse. It isn’t until the rooster crows, as Jesus foretold, that Peter even realizes what’s happening.

I relate to Peter here in that I didn’t realize I was vulnerable and indeed going in the very direction I said I’d never go in until it was too late. Still consumed with the idea that compromise wasn’t an option, Peter and I both walked right into what we said we’d never do. We weren’t untouchable like we thought we were. In fact, because neither of us understood our vulnerability we were not prepared for the temptation.

When Jesus told Peter he would deny him Peter’s response could have been different. Instead of rebuking Jesus, Peter would have been better off asking him how he could guard himself. He could have accepted the possibility, and allowed Jesus to give him insight into how he might be faithful in the face of temptation.

When people told me to be pure, I should have been open to the possibility that sexual temptation was an option, and asked for insight on how to remain pure. How do I, when presented with the possibility, hold firm and not waver. Instead, I agreed to a list of things I’d never do and bought into the untouchable myth without a second thought.

By not admitting weakness we leave room for it; by believing we are untouchable we become vulnerable to failure. Truth is we’re all more impressionable than we’d like to admit.

Not only because you are a believer, but more so because you are a leader, the enemy places a target on you. You can block the possibility of moral failure from your mind and remain vulnerable to his attacks, or you can accept that you are not untouchable and take an active part in preparing yourself.
— The Untouchable Myth for Propel Women

Before taking on leadership or platform in a church, young people need to first learn to establish guardrails. It will be this vital key that protects them from their own moral failure and losses along the way. Like I mentioned in a previous week, no pastor sets out to fail which is why this principal is so important. Do what you must, even if it's inconvenient, to protect yourself from sin. Blind copy someone you trust to your email exchanges with people of the opposite sex. Don't be alone in your apartment or house with the person you are dating. Be accountable to the expenses you are making with the church credit card. Whatever that may be, ask God to bring to the surface areas you might struggle in and develop guardrails to protect you from going in that direction.

Young person, learn to do this and make this a priority, and you will be thankful that you did!