GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Minefields on the field of ministry — misuse of pastoral authority, anger, sexual misconduct, financial or health problems, to name a few — require an intentional plan of safeguards, a counselor to ministers said.
Dallas Speight of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, addressed the importance of ministers protecting themselves before problems arise in a session during the July 10-14 National Conference for Church Leadership at Glorieta, a LifeWay Conference Center, in New Mexico.
Answering three questions can help clarify one’s purpose and call, he said. They are: Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Is what I do going to make a difference?
Participants shared steps they have taken to protect themselves, their ministries and their families. These included: accountability groups; using the computer only in public areas at church and at home; establishing and following guidelines related to potential problems, such as counseling someone of the opposite sex; getting enough rest; having time with God; and listening to positive influences, such as Christian radio.
Citing Matthew 4:1-11, which describes Satan’s temptation of Christ, Speight said ministers can find symptoms of temptation in that passage, including loss of purpose, tempting potential, pride, power, praise and perfectionism.
Pride, he said, while having a positive side, has a negative aspect that can “become the doorway to failure.”
“The drive to be successful, not for God’s glory but your own, and the unhealthy drive to be seen by others as the person behind the success can lead to failure,” he continued.
Power that leads to failure is evident in control issues of running the church, poor people skills and a pastoral leadership style that is too strong, among others, Speight said.
The combination of temptation issues can lead to several results, he said. Among those are burnout and depression from the need to succeed; anger and frustration due to an inability to share emotions; marital difficulties; recurring moves to find the “right” church; adultery and infidelity; a controlling attitude with the church; and a need for approval and acceptance.
Safeguards against these outcomes for ministers, he said, can include acknowledging one’s humanity; establishing boundaries; and reviewing one’s expectations regarding perfection, success, becoming a great minister and being a great husband and father.
“Deal appropriately with your emotional needs,” he cautioned. “Infidelity, as well as other sexually stimulating activities, are becoming increasing problems for ministers.
“Maintain a private spiritual walk, as well as a public one,” he urged. “Be accountable.”
LifeWay’s church leadership group and the pastor-staff leadership department sponsored the National Conference for Church Leadership.