Who shall watch your heart?
Someone is surely going to say that making rules or setting boundaries for yourself and all staff in your church is some kind of legalism. So are all the white lines on the side of the football field. And so are all the goals you have set on your smart watch or Fit-bit.
We all need rules and guardrails. Yes, we do not trust ourselves. Yes, we have all read the front-page articles, sometimes written with the glee of the writer, or the headline editor, about the pastors who trusted themselves too much and kept slipping until they fell.
The church oversight board needs to adopt clear guidelines, rules, or guardrails for everyone representing the church, or the church itself could get blamed and have a lawsuit for not trying to construct protective policies.
Guardrails and policies—okay, laws and rules!—about computers, meetings, words, and jokes. Each church must have them.
And then, of course, each of us must guard our own hearts. No friend, board, or guideline can do that for any of us.
Knute, for Jim and Jeff
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What boundaries should a church board have in its policies for all church staff?
- Policies like these:
- Two-adult rule with children.
- Windows in doors. Don’t be in the building alone with only one other person.
- Gender issues: Don’t ride in cars alone, have dinner alone, or meet alone with someone of the opposite sex.
- Policies about money:
- Keep and turn in your receipts.
- Don’t have access to the dollars yourself.
- Have clear policies for cash.
- Time off
- Filters on the Internet
All these types of policies are set in place so they can be known, interacted with, and tracked.
[bctt tweet=”How do personal, moral, or ethical crashes happen?. ‘We start trusting ourselves.’ @TakingOneStep”]
- Establish a social media policy that aligns with the mission of your church; indirectly these platforms are an extension of the church.
- Have policies for counseling people of the opposite sex. We keep doors open and make sure other people are in the offices.
- Travel arrangements should never be with the opposite sex alone in car with another individual.
- Dinner or lunch should not be someone of opposite sex only.
- Set measures that are above reproach. Have the board officially adopt these measures.
- For sure the two pages called “boundaries” which we can send to you, covering issues of finances, appearances of impropriety, and issues that the church would be legally responsible for if a staff member was accused and the church had not made clear policies and enforced them.
- Issues of accountability and reporting for staff, how everyone reports to someone, up to the senior pastor, and how the pastor reports to the oversight board.
- Issues of relationship and meetings with the opposite gender, about not meeting consistently one on one, or not being “alone alone,” or not repetitive counseling. Some of the nationally known impropriety pastoral issues could have been handled more appropriately by simply enforcing these policies or issuing penalties when they were broken.
- Financial policies should include a clear way salaries are set by a strong team responsible to the board; clear policies on reimbursement and even touching money, giving of money to others, raises to staff, and support to missionaries.
Are there any extra rules or guidelines you self-impose?
- It’s not always practical, but I don’t like to travel alone, so I will often have someone with me. If available, it will be one of our kids.
- I don’t like to stay in hotels any more than needed, so if my meeting ends at 6:00 pm, I’ll head to the airport and catch the red-eye, because I don’t want to be in a city where nobody knows me, in a hotel all by myself. I don’t want to deal with the temptations, so I’d rather leave.
- I am never alone with somebody of the opposite sex. If I’m going to meet with someone one-on-one, it’s going to be in my office in an appropriate way.
- I am subject to all the financial rules that the rest the staff is subject to, so I must turn in my receipts and have accountability.
- Only side hugs to females when appropriate.
- Access to each other’s phone, always for married couples.
- Love your own spouse daily and unconditionally and plan times alone to keep your own marriage healthy.
- Publicly show affection and love for your own spouse. This reveals that you are off limits and want no other attention from someone of the opposite sex.
- The policies for “boundaries” should be shared within your marriage with the assurance that you will keep them.
- Of course the best strength comes from a strong spiritual relationship with our Lord, and a strong marriage relationship that is renewed by time, openness, and action-love. Do not let the sun set on your unsettled differences!
- Only I know what I am thinking, or what or who is running through my mind. Therefore, an accountability partner and a small group of confidants seems essential. But we must always acknowledge sole responsibility for our thoughts, actions, and direction.
How or why do personal moral or ethical crashes happen?
- The bottom line is we start trusting ourselves. The person I trust the least on the planet is me, because I’m the person that I know the best on the planet and the scripture says that I can’t even know myself, and that “the heart is deceitfully wicked.”
- We must remember that we’re not above crashes, so those precautions are important for us personally. They are also important if we’re trying to live free of accusation, because even the accusation will take a person down today. It’s not always fair, but that’s the way it is.
- Fatigue and resentment. When I’m exhausted, I can quit caring about things and if I have built-up resentment, I can punish somebody by doing something dumb, so it’s important for me to guard my heart in all these things.
- A drained marriage is a big one. Looking and saying, Let’s be healthy and happy and sexy and stay connected in a deep way. That’s not always easy, especially when you have young kids and busy lives. It’s not a simple thing to do but should be made a real discipline.
- We think we are stronger than we are and we resist accountability.
- We are sinful by nature.
- Unhealthy relationships at home.
- Unaddressed sin in one’s personal life.
- Power and pride.
- The enemy’s constant barrage when one is physically or spiritually weak.
- And sometimes out of a need to just help someone who is struggling.
- Because we begin to trust ourselves too much, or maybe we think we no longer carry the sin nature!
- Because we break our own rules and cross our own boundaries.
- Because church and beliefs become forms of behavior rather than convictions and relationships of the heart.
- Because we start to believe what people say to us when they flatter us about our messages or mood.
- Because we drop some part of P-R-A-Y in our daily walk—Praise, Repent, Ask, and Yield. We need all four.
- Because people around the leader do not tag him out, but rather give in or allow the leader to do more and more of his sins without “calling a meeting.” Do boards just turn the other way when they hear about the anger or breaking of policies? Do friends not love?
Do most of us know how we would fail if we did?
- Probably, if we are self-aware that we have weaknesses.
- Affairs do not just happen spontaneously. It’s a stepping process, a daydreaming process, a letting-your-guard-down process. If you look critically at yourself, you would say, I’m on a journey.
- When people embezzle money, it is not out of the blue. There’s often debt, resentment, entitlement, and all kinds of things that go with that first.
- Guard your heart, see these things, especially when they’re pointed out to you! This is a huge part of preventing crash landings!
- Yes and no, the enemy is tricky and if we do not daily armor up, pray up, read up, and listen up to Jesus we can find ourselves in a very vulnerable situation.
- There are not many options—pride, sexual, drugs, money, beliefs. All of us are aware of where we are weak. Perhaps the only one where we may not admit need is the pride area.
- If we could give a pretty good guess, we must fortify that area in our practices and mind.
Vol. 7, Issue 1
Produced by CE National
Pastorpedia is a resource provided to you by CE National, a church effectiveness ministry. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574.267.6622 if we may be of any help to you or your ministry!
Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.