The #MeToo Movement will be one of the historic markers of 2018. Its impact is felt in the entertainment industry, in politics, in businesses and, undoubtedly, in churches. While we have yet to understand fully the impact in local churches, we can anticipate changes that will come. Here are five ways the #MeToo movement will likely impact churches.
- More churches will adopt the Billy Graham rule. The Billy Graham rule, at its essence, says a person should not be alone with a person of the opposite gender if that person is not your spouse. This practice, disparaged and ridiculed by many as archaic, legalistic, and unfair, could have saved a lot of heartache if it had been embraced earlier. It will bring changes in counseling, travel, and meetings.
- More churches will add #MeToo questions for background checks. There are already a number of background checks done on prospective pastors and church staff. Background checks for credit, legal, and social media are now common. It will likely be common for churches to ask prospective pastors and staff if there is anything in their history that could bring shame to the person and the church.
- Smaller churches will make changes to make sure two people are not alone in the church office. It is not uncommon in many smaller churches to have only two people in the office, commonly the pastor and an assistant. Likewise, it is common for those two people to be of the opposite gender. Anticipate an acceleration of the trend toward virtual assistants, even (or perhaps especially) in smaller churches.
- Travel habits will change for church staff and church members. The Billy Graham rule precludes a male and female traveling alone, even for short distances. Many churches will adopt such a policy. It will likely mean some churches will have to change their travel practices significantly.
- There will be a heightened sensitivity to the problems that precipitated the #MeToo Movement. The world has changed as a result of the #MeToo Movement. Churches are part of that change. Not only will practices change in the church, but language and attitudes will change as well. Hopefully, the changes will move toward that of honoring the women who work and minister in churches and demonstrating a more Christ-like attitude in all that we do.
I have practiced the Billy Graham rule in my life. It has been a policy of the organization I lead for years. The #MeToo Movement is a reminder that the late evangelist got it right. When it is all said and done, anything we can do to show greater respect and honor to girls and women can only be good.
Posted on August 13, 2018
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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Thank you so much for listing these ways that the church could likely be impacted by the #MeToo movement. We hired a new pastor 18 months ago and one of the first things he told us as a staff was that we would operate under the “Billy Graham rule.” We had never functioned in that way, yet quickly understood the protection in it. Ignoring potential impacts and not putting boundaries in place in order to be above reproach can be detrimental to the body of believers. Thank you again for sharing these important reminders.
Thank you so much for listing out the ways churches could be impacted by this. We brought on a new pastor about 18 months ago and this was the “Billy Graham rule” was the first thing he communicated. We hadn’t operated in this way as a church before, and frankly hadn’t thought much about it. Thankful that he brought this philosophy with him, and that he is in constant communication with the female staff about scheduling and meeting so that either multiple people are in the building, or other arrangements are made. Ignoring the impacts of #MeToo and not conducting selves in a manner above reproach can be so detrimental in many ways. Thank you again for these reminders.
Agree, we all need to “watch & pray”, have training, & rely on the Holy Spirit in those not by the book situations, that happen no matter how much you prepare. Here’s a crazy example how we can stand on what we believe, with no exceptions to the rules, and be wrong: True story, an older church secretary was in extreme pain & needed to go to the emergency room. She asked the Senior Pastor to drive her, the only person in the church at the time. He refused because of how it might look, called a lady who wasn’t even dressed yet to drive her there. Though it ended up not being life-threatening, she was hurt by his refusal in an emergency.
Good point. We must remember it is the Billy Graham “rule”, not the Billy Graham “law”. The rule is simply is good, sound advice that has to be mixed with some common sense.
This has been a very good thread of comments and as I see it, healthy banter about some questions begging for answers. Thinking out loud, I just wonder how many circumstances of either accused sexual improprieties or actual improprieties have happened that could have been avoided if the entire church staff were required to go through monthly discussions about these potential threats against the church membership and staff. If the pastor were to have open discussions about the many disguises Satan has when it comes to luring believers into sin, and require reports from staff concerning their activities with church members, i.e., counseling, training, etc., to ensure their safety. I have found that we misrepresent sin in the life of a believer when we say, “He/She fell into sin.” I know that as a believer, we don’t fall into sin, we jump into sin. That being the case, staff accountabilities must be in place, for although the church has not fallen, we live in a fallen world, and must expect Satan’s attack on every level of our existence. Now more than ever the church needs to have confidence in their staff that every precaution is being taken to protect themselves, the members, and the testimony of the church.