7 Sexual Lines No Pastor Should Cross

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I’ve known more than one pastor who was a sexual predator. And, if it makes the reader feel any better, every one of them is out of the ministry now. My observation, however, is that no serial adulterer occupying the pastor’s office entered the ministry with such sordid intentions. He fell into sin and one thing led to another. (Sound familiar? It’s how life works.) So, what follows is for young ministers in particular who have not been snared in the lust trap and wish to make sure they don’t. (For your information, I invited my wife Margaret to add her observations.) Here are seven lines pastors do not want to cross.

1. Do not use cologne.

Women are sensitive to fragrances, my wife says, which is why they wear them in the first place. When a man wears them, he sends out a subtle signal, the type no wise minister needs to be emitting.

2. Do not hug women.

One pastor said he hugs no one between the ages of six and 66. To the minister who argues that, “Well, I am a toucher and people need to be hugged,” I reply:

a) Granted, but let women hug women and men hug men, if necessary and appropriate.

b) In most cases, your “touching” indicates some physical or emotional need in yourself, and is not what healthy ministers do.

Even if your intentions are pure, you make yourself vulnerable to charges of inappropriate touching. And—do not miss this—in the minds of many, to be charged is to be convicted. Best to guard against these dangers.

3. Do not be in your office with a woman alone.

A pastor of a large church told some of us why he does not counsel in his office. “All she has to do is run out of the office screaming and your ministry is over.” When someone catches him following a worship service with, “Pastor, could I come by and talk with you about a problem?” he answers, “Let’s sit in a pew right over here and talk now!” Their visit is in public, but far enough removed from people so that no one hears their conversation.

4. Do not be in the church alone with a woman.

This is more difficult for small churches that have no one on staff but the pastor. In my first post-seminary church, the secretary worked half-days. Often, she and I were in the building alone all morning. In those cases, you do the best you can at keeping your distance, making sure the doors are unlocked and drop-ins are welcome, and when possible, have others in the office too. A pastor I used to serve with would sometimes ask me to remain after hours because he was counseling a woman, and wanted to make sure someone else was in the building.

5. Do not make pastoral visits alone.

If you knock on a door and find that a woman is home alone, do not go inside, but visit briefly at the door. Many pastors take a deacon or their wife with them on such calls.

6. Do not compliment a young woman on her appearance.

My wife says with women middle-aged and older, you can say, “You’re looking nice today.” But do not compliment a woman on her dress, her figure, tell her that her diet’s really working, and such. You are stepping over an invisible line.

7. Do not fantasize about women.

Most sins of a sexual nature had their beginnings long before as the individual imagined certain situations with some individual. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, he was ready since he had been over that ground a hundred times before. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). The “do nots” clearly have no end. By Joe McKeever