Rather than spend two paragraphs trying to build up to the issue of pastors getting too close to their female congregation and vice versa, let’s get straight to it.
Women of all ages are drawn to church in search of answers, leadership and even comfort from their worldly afflictions. Men, who aren’t drawn to church for the same reason, tend to be puzzled by it all. What they don’t understand is that the female of the species is socialised to believe that she is inadequate – and solutions to whatever she is lacking can be found in a man. For women of whatever age or walk of life men offer or should offer the three Ps. To Provide, to protect and to proclaim.
By and large very few women are equipped to be bold or confident right from home. When I hear of organisations seeking to empower the girl I often wonder whether they appreciate and know that girls need to be empowered from home or the unit closest to home before we can get all high-brow and hope we can impart something in a some training seminar. Therefore women of all ages and all walks of life spend majority of their time and their lives looking for someone or something to tell them they are enough.
It starts with the friends they have, then the boyfriend, then the organisation they work for, what they wear and how they wear it. After that they look for it in relationships and marriage and when that doesn’t fix the “hole” they take their troubles and concerns and fears to church and there they encounter the ever listening, ever caring, ever attentive ear of the pastor. From that moment and depending on how well her “need” is met by this individual, the relationship may go from the spiritual to the physical. Enter the madness many like to call “romancing the throne”
Believe it or not, this is a common problem. When a woman is hungry for male leadership, she will take it where she finds it. If she has a boss, a lecturer, a teacher, headmaster, pastor or gym instructor who is providing instruction and leadership by teaching or leading, and a father, husband or boyfriend who isn’t, then it is a perfect set-up for her to begin to render too much respect to this other male, and it can be a temptation for the man in question to enjoy it too much. He can be flattered at the attention and provide attention when he has no business or calling to do so.
Let’s not be too swift to turn our focus to the pulpit since we should be able to see the signs way before the lady turns to the ultimate deliverer. Any of us who have daughters, sisters, friends, aunties or even mums who are hanging abound or bragging about how “totally awesome” their pastors, male teachers, bosses, lecturers, doctors, gym instructors or youth pastors are, should take it as a wake-up call. This world is full of snares and temptations of all kinds, and it is always an advantage to know where your vulnerabilities are.
Listening to various voices and opinions on the transgressions of pastors and their flock over the past few weeks, it’s hard to believe that we still don’t understand or appreciate that there must be a distance maintained between those who are called to serve and those who hope to gain salvation.
Speak to any theologian who appreciates and doesn't shy away from the fact that that there can be an unhealthy attraction and relationship between those in the church ministry and their flock and you know that there are lines pastors do not want to cross with the female of their flock.
A few adages I know to be true no matter what denomination you subscribe to are:
Church leaders and pastors should not hug women. I said it and I will repeat it. Pastors should not hug the females of their congregation. Yes you may argue that the women need that brotherly support, fatherly comfort, your touch, your “blessing”, but honestly, in most cases, your “touching” satisfies some physical or emotional need in the other person and it’s simply not healthy.
Pastors should never be in their office with a woman alone. A pastor of a large church told us on the Big Breakfast that he doesn’t counsel in his office and even then the door is open and his office is “glass”. Enough said – there is nothing of a spiritual nature even prayer and the laying of hands that cannot be done in the open.
In the same vein and this brings us to the unfortunate incidence last week of Pastor Maingi - Do not make pastoral visits alone. If a pastor knocks on a door and finds that a woman is home alone, they should not go inside, least of all ask to rest on the bed with their clothes off. The prescribed thing is to meet at the door and since this may seem weird, many pastors take a deacon or their wife with them on such calls.
Pastors should not compliment a young woman or any woman on her appearance. A pastor I know says it’s okay to say “You’re looking smart today.” But no pastor or church leader should compliment a woman on her dress or her figure or tell her that her diet’s really working. You are stepping over an invisible line and once you do, coming back is almost impossible. A note to all men – compliments are taken by the average (not all) as “he likes me. He really, likes me.” So if she acts all hurt and wounded when you pay attention to another female yet you never looked at her “like that”, please remember that there’s a young girl in all women and she wants and needs to be validated. Compliments that focus on her physical self are taken very, very differently no matter who you are and especially if you are pastor.
My friends lets not be pretentious in this one thing, when it comes to romancing the throne, power is the ultimate pull. Martin Luther King Jr. had a well-known affair, and I don’t think it’s necessary to mention Bill Clinton. In my opinion, pastors fall into this category to a certain extent.
As women, when we take ourselves to church and especially if we feel there is no where else to turn for solutions to our problems whether those problems are the search for a marriage partner, inability to bear children, ill health, a straying spouse, wayward offspring, lack of finances – we see this man of God as our friend, listening ear, confident and problem solver. Hence when the pastor doesn’t guard against the inevitable attraction that may form, trouble ensues and no good ever comes from romancing the throne – no good whatsoever. The buck stops with the pastor to ensure that he keeps the female of the flock at arms length, after-all, he knows why it is women who flock to church in their thousands. The person who must ensure that there will be no passion at the pulpit is the pastor.