Moral and spiritual landmines are a dangerous reality in ministry. The list that follows is developed from my personal ministry and life experience. I encourage you to read them first as a human being fully aware of your own personal sin nature and patterns of human frailty, rather than strictly as a busy minister who does not wish to waste time over something which does not appear relevant to your life. It is relevant. In your heart of hearts you know this. So slow down, forget about the distractions, and allow Jesus to speak to your heart. See if this list rings true for you. Perhaps you would add something different. You will have that opportunity. But for now read slowly and thoughtfully, asking God what he is saying to you.
- Isolation: You know that saying, “It’s lonely at the top”? It’s usually true. It doesn’t have to be true, but it typically is. There are many reasons for this. I won’t attempt a list. You know what they are for you. Seek community in which you can be real, able to confess your sins and weaknesses, able to weep and laugh, able to love and be loved without fear of manipulation. Seasons of solitude are fine; isolation is poisonous.
- Alone with member of opposite gender: Unless it is your spouse, don’t do this. Why give an opportunity for temptation or the possible hint of impropriety and even immorality? Not worth it. If you must meet with a parishioner or staff member who is the opposite gender, invite your spouse or another ministry colleague to join the conversation, at least as a quiet listener, if not an active participant.
- Alone with minors: Again, do not do this. Have a parent or fellow staff member with you if a meeting or counseling session is required. Never, ever be alone with a child. For their protection and for yours.
- Thin Skin: Let’s get real here. Many in ministry leadership love to be loved. I do. I suspect many of you do as well. So it hurts when we receive criticism, especially when it’s mean-spirited or unjustified. But it’s time for us to grow up and realize that being a leader means being a target. Some people will shoot cruel or disruptive criticism at anyone that is moving forward. They do so usually because of their own issues rather than any legitimate feedback they may offer. Get used to it. It will always be a reality.
- Lack of a life outside of ministry: Love your family. Be with them. Put God first with your family right alongside of you. Love your spouse as God’s special gift to you. Show your children how real godly men and women treat their spouses. Enjoy hobbies. Do the work of the ministry, but don’t worship it or it will eat you up, spit you out, and then kick you to the curb. Single ministers? God has not forgotten you. Be faithful. You are not defined by your marital status, but by whom God says you are, his beloved child. Church? Take special care to become family to both single and married ministers. They need you as family probably more than you need their unique skills.
What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? How do you deal with these and other potential landmines in ministry?