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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  • Pastor Thom, I am so happy to read this article. I have just published my book What Happens After #MeToo Tackling the Iceberg for parents and caregivers of children on how to protect their children against sexual abuse. I would love to send you a copy (send me the address please). I would also love to come and meet with you to discuss how we can implement preventive programs in our churches. As a pediatrician and a trauma therapist, I have developed many programs for that.
    Please check out my website:
    My husband and I have been following Billy Graham’s rules in ministry. You can never be too careful. Bless you.

  • Jean Coleman says on

    As powerful and valuable the #MeToo movement and the Billy Graham rule has been helpful, there is another reality that most evangelical churches are not considering. What about those SAME GENDER persons, who, unknown to the church staff who is meeting with them, are LGBTQ? The possibility of an accusation (whether false or true) is a valid concern. Do we no longer meet with anyone? Do we only meet in groups of three? What about those of us who are solo female pastors (disregarding the previous discussion about women in pulpit ministry) who are at risk of being harmed because we have no choice but to be alone in the church because it is a SMALL church? While I value the efforts made to protect women from men in authority, That is not the only problem; 10% of the Western world (give or take a bit) are claiming to be LGBTQ. If we are called to follow Jesus’ mandate to go out to ALL the world, there’s a risk that needs to be taken.

  • Tidal Ashburn says on

    I really like this article. I make sure not to be alone with a woman. If at church or not possible I make sure that door is open. I so so without apology. It is a matter of respect.

  • Pastor Thom, I am so happy to read this article. I have just published my book What Happens After #MeToo Tackling the Iceberg for parents and caregivers of children on how to protect their children against sexual abuse. I would love to send you a copy (send me the address please). I would also love to come and meet with you to discuss how we can implement preventive programs in our churches. As a pediatrician and a trauma therapist, I have developed many programs for that.
    Please check out my website:
    My husband and I have been following Billy Graham’s rules in ministry. You can never be too careful. Bless you.

  • Susanne Shultz says on

    I believe the so-called Billy Graham rule is intended to mean a person should not be alone with a person of the opposite SEX – not of the opposite GENDER. Why are we using the term “gender” when it is appropriate to use the word “sex?” Society, and unfortunately the church, uses the terms incorrectly! Let’s stick with saying “sex” when it applies, and “gender” when it applies! I have seen church camp registration forms ask what gender a child is. Have we Christians been that gullible?? Apparently. Otherwise, I believe these are likely impacts of the #MeToo movement and agree we need to be more careful than ever.

  • Daughter says on

    This post is inconsistent with it’s title!

    The #MeTooMovement is NOT about false accusations! NO! The #MeTooMovement is about a real systemic problem where women and children are being abused, harassed, and disrespected in all areas of society.

    False accusers are Not the #MeTooMovement!! It is very disturbing to me and also the women who have posted.
    To say that pastors and men should not even shake hands or give a side hug to a woman in public is pure stupidity. To say that a man speaking one on one to a woman in public gives the appearance if evil is unwise and lacks discernment and common sense.

    CG – Paul was only a man, a Jewish man, who trained in the Jewish laws, many a plethora of ridiculous laws! Because this was the culture, to upend the cultural ideals and customs would have been a stumbling block. Yet, when Peter insisted that Gentiles be circumcised, Paul publicly called him out. Again, Paul was only a man.

    Jesus, on the other hand, is God. Jesus was with the Woman at the Well (married 5 times and the man the lived with was not her husband) ALONE. The disciples came and scolded Jesus! Jesus put them in their place, didn’t he?
    What about Judge Deborah, and Prophetess Anna? Your arguments fall flat. Sounds like you follow Paul.

    Many of the changes you see, Thom, are impractical at best. I do agree about being alone counseling for the protection of all, especially WOMEN. Now, that statement accurately reflects the #MeTooMovement.

    Sorry, but I think you need to try again on this topic.

    • Daughter says on

      When describing the qualities that the office holders called “deacons” must possess, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:11 that the gunaikas (Greek for “women”) hosautos (Greek for “likewise”), translated “likewise the women”. They, likewise, are to be “worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” The “likewise” indicated that the women deacons were to have similar qualifications to the men deacons (see also the Apostle Paul’s use of the term “likewise” in Romans 1:27, 1 Cor. 7:3,4,22, and Titus 2:3,6
      Phoebe was referred to as a deacon by Paul.

      In Acts, Pricilla and Aquila were both made the church leaders in Ephesus by Paul himself. Paul called them both workers alongside himself notably naming Pricilla first. Pricilla along with her husband pulled aside the great evangelist/preacher Apollos to teach and explain to him about baptism in Jesus because his knowledge only went to John the baptist.

      • William Secrest says on

        Amen. Could not agree more.

      • Craig Giddens says on

        The context of 1 Timothy 3 clearly indicates that deacons are to be men.

        1 Timothy 3
        11. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
        12. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

        Phoebe was a servant, but she didn’t hold the office of deacon.

        Paul never refers to Priscilla and Aquila as leaders in the church, but even at that a person can be a leader, but still not hold the office of pastor, bishop, elder, or deacon just like a person can be a servant without holding the office of deacon.

      • You need to go back and look at the original language and it’s original meanings. Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek to understand what the scripture originally meant in it’s original context. Only then will you have a complete understanding of scripture, CG. Phoebe was a deaconess, Pricilla and Aquilla were the pastors, and a prophet/ess is the highest calling of all.

    • Craig Giddens says on

      My arguments don’t fall flat because I don’t have any arguments. I’m just presenting to you the rightly divided word of truth.

      Yes, Paul was only a man, but He was chosen by God the Father and Jesus Christ to be an apostle. He received revelation directly from Jesus. To ignore what Paul has to say is to ignore Jesus.

      Deborah was a judge, not a priest or a queen. Anna was a prophetess, not a bishop, elder, or deacon. There is no such thing as the office of a “prophetess” in the church age.

      If you want to know the truth you’d better heed what Paul has to say because when it comes to doctrinal matters for the church he is God’s spokesman to you.

      1 Corinthians 4:16
      Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

      1 Corinthians 11:1
      Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

      Philippians 3:17
      Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

      Philippians 4:9
      Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

      1 Thessalonians 1:6
      And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.

      1 Thessalonians 4:1
      Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

      2 Timothy 1:13
      Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

  • Though I have lived with the “Billy Graham” rule since my days as a Young Life leader, and now a pastor for over 37 years. I just read an article by a popular female Christian songwriter who posed a great point – when asked to co-write on a song – if the other writer was male, they would not work with her – which put her and other female songwriters at a disadvantage in working together. I had a request to meet with a female colleague and pastor over a project that we are thinking of doing – but I decided not to – because of my personal “Billy Graham” rule – but then after thinking about it – I would have gladly met if that person were a male colleague. And though I will stick with the rule personally, I am coming to see that it can limit the ministry and gifts that women bring to the Kingdom. Somehow we need to rethink this while keeping the “safety net” in place. By the way, the situation was solved when we added 2 more clergy in on the planning meeting – so now we have a group meeting. Maybe that’s the answer – adding a 3rd party – but sometimes that just isn’t practical. Other ideas?

  • Diane Flora says on

    There have been a lot of great comments provided. I especially was surprised to see the back and forth comment concerning women in ministry. I realize that Paul had lots to say about women in the church. That if we wanted to know something we were to ask our husbands at home. However God used women as a very important part of His work. Deborah, Esther, Ruth, Hagar, Rahad. In Jesus Ministry there were some very important women Mary of Bethany, the Woman at the well, Mary Magdalene and even Paul had women that support him in his work for the Lord. If God can use a donkey and rocks to cry out why not women. There are some very powerful women in ministry that have been used by God. It is important to ask what would Jesus Do. It does not mean that a woman if God has called her to preach the gospel it trying to be the head over a man. Isn’t it important to be in the will of God if the has a call on your life whether you are male or female? Jesus died for us all. And has no respect of person, Romans 2:11-16 KJV.

    • Craig Giddens says on

      Diane, no one is saying women have no part in the church. It’s just that to Paul was given by Jesus Christ Himself the fullest revelation of the body of Christ. Paul was called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles. If you want to know church age doctrine on subjects such as how is a person saved, what happens when a person is saved, the walk of the believer, the structure, function, and future of the church you see what Jesus is saying to you through the Apostle Paul and Paul makes it abundantly clear that the leadership offices in the church are for men and that women are not to teach nor usurp authority over the man. Yes, God used Deborah, Esther, Ruth, Hagar, and Rahab, but this was in the OT during the time of the Law when God was dealing with the nation of Israel as His chosen people. There is nothing doctrinally there in the OT for the body of Christ during the church age. So God did use women in the OT (as He uses women now), but as you know during the OT time God never allowed a women to be a priest or a queen over Israel; roles reserved for men (no one ever seems to fuss at God about that). There were many women involved in Jesus’ ministry, but none were selected to be His apostles. There were women involved in Paul’s ministry, but none were chosen as bishops or elders in the church. Contrary to what the world yells at us the Bible does not teach women are inferior to men. We are all equal in the body of Christ, but God has chosen men to be in positions of leadership. The question isn’t are their “success” stories out there about women in ministry. God isn’t looking for success; He’s looking for people who are faithful to His word. You ask “what would Jesus do”? He’d say He’s already told you what to do and it is written down in the Pauline epistles.

      • However Craig, while this “Diane, no one is saying women have no part in the church.” may be true in your mind you, by your words are saying that women are not full participants in God’s body – the Church. While you are quick to cherry pick the verses from Paul that subjugate women you ignore the verses where Paul praises the leadership women exhibited in the churches he planted. Colossians and Romans to name a couple.

        But suffice to say, nothing I can say will convince you to see another perspective.

      • William Secrest says on

        Les, Amen. I could not have said it any better.

      • Craig Giddens says on


        There are many women and men in the church who lead and are servants in the church without holding an office, but that still doesn’t change the fact that according to the Bible only men can be bishops, elders, and deacons.

        I’m giving you the verses as they are written in the context they are written.

        Your “cherry picking” accusation is just a smokescreen for your ignoring the plain truths of scripture.

    • Agreed, Diana. Hope you’ll read my comment above.

  • Paul R Smith says on

    Over 40 years of youth ministry and we always used the Billy Graham rule. Never had a problem.

  • John Hohe says on

    Great article. I think both clergy and laity are too often naive or “too trusting” . And they probably make too many “exceptions” sometimes on the spot ( “Sure, I can stay a few minutes after the service or after the meeting if you need to meet with me”) that puts them in violation of that Billy Graham rule. And yes, the small church staff church is among the most vulerable.

  • This should probably include the southern cultural hugging that takes place (men hugging women and vice versa) and other similar displays of affection. Perhaps some folks enjoy this action a little too much I don’t know when this kind of thing got started, but I was always taught you don’t even need to shake a woman’s hand. I try to avoid it but often it is initiated by the other person.

  • I am the church business mgr and an 80 yr old assistant with our Youth Director. Our collection of youth spans from 12 to 18 yrs. The kids and I seem to do well; I kid them and listen to their life. I attend many of their sporting events and only embarrass they a little bit 🙂 I have not had the quandary of transporting the girls but I do help getting a couple of our young guys to Thursday nite gathering. In one case the parent commutes a long distance and can’t bring his son on time, and in the other case, the main parent can be quite ill. Sooo when I get their parent request, I pick the young guys up and drive them. But I am alone in the car. Since I am heavily involved in our insurance requirements, creating our Sexual Incident Policy for our church manual… I am aware of the dangers that I am treading in. But I hope my age alone protects us somewhat – I know our gathering is very important in their life. Maybe sometimes reality supersedes convention. Any thoughts?

    • This contributor brings up an excellent point for consideration. The transportation of youngsters where exceptions often happen usually at the last moment, and to try to follow the rule might create more difficulty for all involved. I deal with this when I operate a praise team. I have to insist that parents sitting out in the parking area need to come into the building and be present if I find myself alone with their children for more than just a couple of minutes. Sometimes that upsets the parent (s), but I would hope they would understand.

    • The one in charge should ask some questions before interaction like you identify:

      1. How would the random person walking by and seeing our interaction interpret what is going on? Is there any room for misinterpretation of what is planned? If so, change something in the interaction to lessen the opportunity for misinterpretation.

      2. How is this interaction consistent with previous situations? Should I meet with anyone under these circumstances? If I don’t think so then change something.

      A person can’t remove all risk but playing the “what if” game or stopping and being critical about possible perceptions by others who aren’t involved can help.

      Sometimes there is a policy that is good but also requires thought to apply it. For instance, in the Navy our cooks were supposed to discard anything that had been out of its original packaging more than 72 hours. For good reason, you don’t want to give spoiled food to people on a ship. But that same rule should apply when we opened a jar of jalapeno peppers – and we know there is no self respecting bug that will grow in pickled jalapenos. So we kept them, knowing full well that was in violation of the policy.

    • I used to pick up neighborhood kids and take them to church. I would have 5 kids in a load including my own 2, transporting 3 loads of kids each way. So, I never find myself alone with any. I also cultivated relationships with the kids and their families. When I had a volunteer help me drive kids home, I would follow their car from house to house until all were dropped off. Everyone is a witness. With that said, I have worked with many children in schools church and community. I have never come across any who have claimed abuse falsely. I also had parents sign release of liability forms. These are important to protect the church whom you represent and you personally from many things that could occur such as car accident. You can also ensure that if you take only one kid then make sure there is at least two kids in the vehicle or another adult preferably female.