Let me start off by saying no one is immune to sexual temptation. It doesn’t matter what your job is, how old you are or how much time you spend with Jesus each day. We all have the potential to fall sexually. Even ministers … and maybe especially ministers.
Ministers have jobs that automatically put them in a pressure cooker.
It’s not unusual to have a stressful job, but there are five unique aspects of a ministry position that make it more vulnerable to opening the door to sexual temptation.
1. A pastorate is a place of power.
Whether the minister is using it or not, he has great influence over others.
The pastor is an authority, he is looked up to, he is on stage and he is usually highly regarded. Broken people with damaged lives come regularly to talk with the minister, many of them desperate for a word or attention.
It is not hard for a minister to sway others with their words or personality. The minister probably doesn’t realize the power he has over others.
2. Ministers are often isolated and unaccountable for their actions.
Ministers spend large amounts of time alone. Many don’t have a set schedule or a structured day. They don’t have to clock in and out of work, and don’t usually have church leaders asking them accountability questions.
This is especially true for the small church minister who is often the only staff member. Isolation and lack of accountability are seedbeds for disaster.
3. Protection and policies around ministers can be lax.
Churches rarely have policies requiring accountability software on their computer or mobile phone. Few or no precautions are taken when the minister is counseling someone of the opposite sex. And ministers often go on visitation to homes by themselves.
Policies don’t cure bad behavior or a wayward congregant, but they provide an extra boundary that may be a difference maker in a tempting situation.
4. Ministers have few people they can share their deepest struggles with.
It’s hard for a minister to be transparent. His closest relationships are usually with church people, and he doesn’t want to share deeply with parishioners. Neither does he share his personal or sexual struggles with other ministers for fear he might lose his job.
5. Ministers frequently feed off the approval of others.
Ministers can be approval addicts. Their identities can revolve around the attention and comments of others.
A minister’s wellbeing, if it is unhealthy, rises and falls with every “Good sermon” or “Sister Jones is mad at you.” Not only are broken church members looking for attention, but so are broken ministers.
Sexual tension in a minister/parishioner relationship is powerful and deadly. It pushes the button of an approval addict and the needy church member, and can quickly lead to disaster.
START THE CONVERSATION, HAVE COURAGE.
Unfortunately, we must initiate these conversations with our staff and church leaders. It’s doubtful a lay leader or denominational leader will get the ball rolling until there is a moral failure.
It takes courage to talk about potential holes in our ministry. It takes a higher motivation for integrity and sexual purity to draw boundaries, write policies and set up accountability.
These are points of vulnerability. They have been fault lines for many ministers before us who have fallen sexually. We ministers have a high responsibility and are accountable for the souls of many.
We mustn’t be lax in dealing with areas of sexual vulnerability or questioning our staff about them.
About Jeff Fisher
Jeff Fisher is a minister, blogger and podcaster from Raleigh, NC. He is a graduate of Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth and pastored churches in Texas and New York. Deep recovery began for Jeff when his pornography addiction caused him to lose his ministry position. For the first time, he began discovering the sexual health that God intended for him and for his marriage.