Five Ways the #MeToo Movement Will Likely Impact Churches

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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  • The better question is:
    “How should the church change…?”

    The reality is the MeToo movement has brought light to things the church should already be concerned with. We should have been leading the way rather than reacting.

    Also, the so called “Bill Graham Rule” has a major flaw. It doesn’t require men to stop treating women as objects in the first place. And…Because we already have a culture that prizes men and churches that tend to only recognize men in leadership (especially pastoral leadership), this rule will continue to place an undue burden on women in ministry.

    If churches are worried about their pastors acting inappropriately, maybe they should seek a pastoral change.

    Or even better a theological change: stop insisting on a subordinate role for women in the kingdom of God.

    • Craig Giddens says on

      Amazing, with a serious issue like this and people still want to push their anti-scriptural agendas.

    • Yes, this! We have to have a major paradigm shift. The onus should be on men. They should be teaching young men that women are not objects for their sexual gratification. Instead, we focus on teaching girls all of the things they should do to avoid assault.

    • Thank you, Matt. I agree completely. I come from a denomination where women are pastors, and the impact has been wonderful. Many of them bring a wisdom and a depth to pastoral care that had been missing before they arrived.

  • Just last week I found myself in a situation that could have possibly appeared to be compromising. When this occurred the Spirit immedieatly revealed the danger to me and I made sure the door to this room remained open and left nothing to chance. If we will walk in the Spirit we’ll not fulfill the lusts if the flesh.

  • I get it, but how do you protect the reputation of the men without penalizing the women? When you are the only woman on staff it can become isolating. A couple of the guys go out for lunch, the pastor takes the young staff member out for coffee, but the lone woman does not get these same mentoring and connecting opportunities. If the Billy Graham rule is adopted the pastor should create opportunities for women in leadership to have similar growth opportunities as the men. If not, it’s just another form of #MeToo.

    • My thoughts exactly.

      • Yea, to me the Billy Graham rule as it stands only serves to reinforce the distinction between men and women in the church and often leaves women out. And as stated above in today’s culture there is nothing to stop a man from levelling a similar complaint against another man. So since I do not believe we should strive to cut ourselves off from each other, we simply need to move forward trying to treat everyone with respect.

        I would love to see an article which helps us include the opposite sex in ministry in a way which is both respectful and also is above reproach.

  • Craig Giddens says on

    I think the title should’ve been “Impact to Churches That Follow the Billy Graham Rule” with numbers 2 through 5 as sub points.

  • Betty OHearn says on

    I hope that churches review their policies and look to making significant changes if necessary. Great advice!

  • Hopefully, It will put women in a better position within evangelicalism. The leadership needs the input of women and also churches need women on the ministerial staff. People need to hear women preach too.

    • Craig Giddens says on

      People don’t need to hear women preach since it would be a violation scripture.

      • We will respectfully disagree with each other on this.

      • Craig Giddens says on

        Okay, but you’re not disagreeing with me, but with Paul.

      • David Farrar says on

        Paul lived in a 1st century culture. This is the 21st century. Paul said women should not be allowed to speak, not just preach. Try enforcing that rule and tell me how it works.

      • William Secrest says on

        I take it that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is your Biblical basis for your opinion. It is sad that this scripture has been often misused to create sexism against women preachers. It has been my honor to meet many women preachers who have held their own and do an excellent job preaching the word. It is time for the SBC to put this behind them or their female leaders will continue joining ABC USA.

      • Craig, look at the context. Can’t just take everything at face value.

      • Craig Giddens says on

        The context is instructions to the church. Paul plainly states a woman is not to teach nor usurp authority over the man. I don’t know how much plainer it could be.

        Please read exactly what Paul said and not what you wished he meant.

        Why wouldn’t I take 1 Timothy 2 and 3 as basis for my beliefs.

        Its easy to understand why Paul is one of the most attacked persons in the Bible. What he received as inspired from God doesn’t match society’s wish list.

  • I agree, Brother. But feel in this day and time that even being alone with someone of the same sex could lead to speculation. This is especially true of youth leaders and adolescents. Twenty years ago we adopted a rule. No one alone. Child or adult. Reduces risk

    • It’s likely a wise move, Mark.

      • I agree – with deep reservation. We’ve moved to the same kind of thought – male or female regardless, no one is in the room alone with someone under the age of 18. But this troubles me in an age, a community, and a culture where young men crave and need one on one Discipleship. We seem destined for another generation of drifting young men. Danged if we do, danged if we don’t…

      • The issue is not one-on-one discipleship or counseling, it’s setting. It is appropriate to have one-on-one interaction in public. It is also helpful to keep track of what is talked about, even generalities and topics so there’s less change for claim-counterclaim. But you’re right and it’s ironic that other organizations have dealt with this in my past with some success (military for 22 years before ordination) – the key is appropriate settings and documentation.

  • Guthrie Veech says on

    Be sure to read Bob Russell’s book, “When God Builds The Church. Very good ideas on this topic in the book.

  • Thankful to pastor mentors who instilled in me years ago to practice rule #1 even before I knew it was the Billy Gramham rule. Pastoring a church as depicted by Thom ( a two staff church) we always have staff meeting in her office which is always open to the public.

  • Ron Burt says on

    I believe it is biblical instruction that Billy Graham was following rather than his rule.

    1 Thessalonians 5:22-33
    22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

    23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • I had always thought it was the Baptist rule too. We’ve heard Abstaining from the appearance of evil even when there was no appearance of evil, but that can include so many things. I didn’t know (when i first met my Pastor, future husband) being with opposite sex alone was the Appearance of evil. Having come from a worldly secular background, in nursing and janitorial, having been alone with many men, I am pleased to report most men have CHARACTER and are fine with platonic friendship and good teamwork. If they didn’t, I learned to be very loud and very clear. This was always enough.

      Now, as a Pastor’s wife, in a less egalitarian sector of the state, I use the not being alone rule as an excuse to not deal with people I already know are difficult. I’ve been burned too many times, chauffeuring people around to go shopping because they moved to a rural area without a car. They even pointed out to us that it was “our job”. We even had one woman, my age demand that we “promised” when in fact we didn’t “promise” anything at all. Manipulators. I need training on dealing with them.

  • Pastor Bob Hoffman says on

    Please clarify the term “virtual assistant” in #5

    • Jennifer says on

      A virtual assistant is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients remotely from a home office.

      • Minnesota Dave says on

        In a church setting that person would likely be an employee of the church, but working predominantly from home/remotely. Such arrangements might likely include the ability to have virtual on-line conversations, such as via Zoom, FaceTime, etc.

      • Daughter says on

        A secretary’s scope of duties such as copying, signing checks, sorting mail, etc will require that one be in the office. I disagree, that job will not be virtual.

  • Excellent! Think of all the heart ache that would be saved by simply following rule # 1

    • Amen! My wife and I have also followed these simple rules as well for 41 years of happy marriage and martial fidelity. Our thought was that if we began our marriage with a 50% statistical chance for success, each little thing we could do to perhaps “up our odds” a percent or two, would add up. This, plus date night, love/respect, meet sex/security needs, focus on communication as a key to our intimacy, daily time in prayer and God’s Word TOGETHER, etc. are all good stuff that have pointed us to success.

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