Originally published September 20, 2016
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?