Yesterday, I read a fantastic article for pastors entitled The Pastor and Inappropriate Interactions with Women in the Church. (I’ll give you the gist of it, but it’d be better if you would take a second and read it. It’s not long. I’ll wait.) It’s not about pastors having affairs, it’s about inappropriate interactions with women at church: full frontal hugs, emotionally intimate conversations, and such.
I thought it was great advice to pastors, and, while the onus really is on pastors themselves to make sure their behavior toward women in the church is appropriate, there’s no reason women have to make it difficult for them, right? So what can we ladies do to help out our pastors and other brothers at church?
1. Oh, man. Remeber that pastors and Christian brothers are men. No matter how godly they are, they’re subject to all the same temptations as other men, including temptations to lust, touch inappropriately, and even commit adultery. Don’t be lulled into some idyllic complacency that your pastor doesn’t struggle in this area and you don’t have to mind your P’s and Q’s.
2. Trade hugs for handshakes. Maybe you’re just a huggy person in general. You probably don’t mean anything more by hugging a man at church than you do by hugging a woman. But what might it mean or feel like to the man you’re hugging? Maybe that’s something he struggles with. How about offerning a handshake or a pat on the shoulder instead?
3. What Not to Wear. Dress modestly. Yeah, I went there. I’m not going to get into inches of skirt length and all that, just serve your brothers by keeping the girls and the gams sufficiently under wraps. If in doubt, wear something else. If you look like you’re going clubbing instead of to church, wear something else. If it would be too tight or revealing to wear to a funeral without people talking behind your back, wear something else. Sometimes your husband, father, or brother can offer a helpful opinion. They have more experience at looking through a man’s eyes and thinking with a man’s brain than you do.
4. (Don’t) Call me on the line. Don’t exchange personal or numerous phone calls, e-mails, texts, or private social media messages with men. Brief, businesslike, back and forths when absolutely necessary due to mutual projects, meetings, etc., at church are fine, but even those can grow into something inappropriate if you’re not careful.
5. Flirty is for floozies. There’s a fine line between friendly and flirtatious. Locate it and stay on the right side of it.
6. None on one. Do not, under any circumstances, meet alone behind closed doors with your pastor or any other man. That includes your pastor’s office, and it includes pastoral counseling. If he doesn’t insist on another person being present or leaving the door of his office open to a common area where others are around, then you insist on it. Don’t meet in public (a coffee shop, restaurant, etc.) alone with your pastor or any other man, either. That looks like a date to most people.
7. The welcome mat chat. Don’t enter a man’s home if his wife isn’t there, and don’t invite a man inside if your husband isn’t home. Maybe you and the pastor’s wife are friends. You’re out running errands and happen to find yourself in her neighborhood, so you drop by to say hello. It turns out she isn’t home, but her husband is. Keep it to a brief exchange of pleasantries on the porch and go finish your errands. You never know who might be passing by seeing your car in the driveway, but not the pastor’s wife’s car.
Those are just a few of the thoughts I had about some safeguards and precautions we can take to help out our pastors and Christian brothers as well as protect our own hearts and reputations. What say you, ladies (and gentlemen- want to give us the benefit of your experience and wisdom?)? Any other ideas?
9 thoughts on “Pastoral Propriety with Church Ladies, and 7 Ways Women Can Help”
#3 What not to wear.
In my old SB church the youth sat up in the first couple of pews during worship. In summer many of them wore strapless dresses which made it appear from behind as if they had nothing on. No one ever addressed this because that church considered them a protected species. It is frustrating to sit in a church in which there is zero correction.
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Michelle, this is needed and helpful – thanks! I’ve found that too much hugging is happening during our greeting time. Christian men and women need to be thoughtful, prayerful, and deliberate in what we say and do – really, in all we say and do, that old-fashioned word “conversation”. I really appreciate this post.
Thanks, Maria! :0)
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I really appreciate this article. I am a married man and I hate having to hug and kiss a female Christian at, say, a bible study, or whatever. On one occasion I was greeting a female friend and she moved in to give me a hug, and as I brought my arms up to hug her, I accidently put my hand on her breast. I was absolutely mortified and I couldn’t even apologise, I was so embarrassed. I told my wife what had happened, and a few days later I was able to go back and apologise to her. She graciously accepted and everything was OK. I’ve always hated hugging women because it is way too intimate.
When my wife and I were attached to an Arabic Baptist church while I did my degree, it was so liberating because their culture is much stricter and anything more than a handshake with a female is really discouraged. My time with them made me realise I didn’t have to hug females just because they expect it, and now that we’re back in an Australian church, I only shake hands, at the most.
I don’t recommend hugs or kisses because it is too intimate, and a lot more can be revealed in a hug than is intended or realised by the female, and not wanted or intended by the male.
Oh my! What an embarrassing situation for both of you! The differences between cultures are so interesting, aren’t they? What can seem restrictive for some can seem freeing for others.
I’m not comfortable with hugging and kissing either, but it’s less because of the male-female thing and more becuase I’m one of those weird people who just doesn’t like to be touched a whole lot. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the other person, it’s just an internal, sensory thing, I guess. My husband and I are friends with a couple who hug and kiss everyone they greet. I know they mean only kindness and love by doing so, and I love both of them, but it pretty much makes my skin crawl when anyone but my husband or children (even extended family!) gets huggy and kissy with me :0)
Hi Michelle ! Thanks for this post. I know the point is women and men in the church, but what about women hugging (or kissing for that matter) other women? Some women have come out of the sin of homosexuality. We should be mindful of that as well. Sometimes I think we can forget that, especially if we’ve never been in that lifestyle.
Excellent point, Heidi! Thanks! :0)