You’ve seen the headlines, you’ve seen the falls, you know the stories.
So to prevent sexual or relational immorality in the pastorate, I’ve found it helpful to live by certain boundaries. I don’t think the boundaries are legalistic or limiting; in fact, they are liberating.
As Andy Stanley has said, “Maximum freedom occurs under the protective canopy of God-given boundaries.”
So here are five that have helped me in twenty-five years of pastoral ministry. Some are common sense practices that everyone knows and almost everyone does. Others are a bit more unique to my wiring and my situation. Here they are:
1. Don’t ride in a car alone with a member of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. The most common, easiest to enforce boundary of them all. In fact, it is part of our Staff Code here at Good Shepherd. On occasion it makes for inconvenience . . . but not as inconvenient as having to battle rumors, innuendo, or even immorality.
2. Side Hugs With Women. Yep, no other kind. People make fun of me for it, but a little bit of ridicule is worth it in exchange for a whole lot of safety.
3. Computer Safety. One of my co-workers at Good Shepherd gets a weekly report of every website I visit on the office computer. Gulp.
4. (Writing this as a man) If you think a woman in the congregation is pretty, don’t tell her. “Nice dress!” works. “New ‘do!” is mostly appropriate. “You are really pretty,” never works. Nor does, “I find you very attractive.” How much pastoral misconduct has started with words such as those?
5. Before sending an email, ask, “Would I want my spouse to read this?” If you wouldn’t, don’t send.