Young Pastors: 7 Women to Watch Out For

“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech.” (Proverbs 4:3)

Before there was a folk singer by that name, James Taylor was a professor of preaching. This veteran teacher of preachers held forth in classrooms at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for many years. One day, in a room filled with young preacher boys, Dr. Taylor cautioned us about the temptations we would be facing.

“The day will come when a woman will sit in your office and proposition you. She will make herself available to you sexually. If your marriage is in trouble or if you are not up-to-date in your relationship with your Lord, you could get in big trouble fast.”

I raised my hand. “Dr. Taylor,” I said, “do you really believe that every one of us in this room will face this?” My mind was incapable of imagining a scenario in which a woman–any woman–would sit in a pastor’s office and try to seduce him.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “Even you, McKeever.”

That got a laugh.

I lived to see that day. (Fifteen years after she sat in my office making herself available to the young preacher, while preaching in another state, I spotted that woman and her husband–the same husband whose antics had given her cause to seek my counsel originally–in the congregation. I was thankful I had gotten this thing right in my office that day.)

The writer of Proverbs tried to do the same thing Dr. Taylor did for us in seminary that day: prepare the young lad for what he would be facing down the road.

“My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding;

That you may observe discretion, and your lips may reserve knowledge.

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it.” (Proverbs 4:1-6)

The remedy for this–in a sense, the armor which protects one from such a vamp–the writer goes on to say, is to “drink water from your own cistern” (4:15). He gets rather explicit in his counsel to a young husband to satisfy himself intimately with his wife and with no one else.

Many a man of God has sabotaged his own ministry by sexual sin.

They’re all through scripture. We think of the sons of Eli, the high priest. “The sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord” (I Samuel 2:12). “They lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (2:22).The Lord had no patience with such antics and put them out of business quickly (4:11).

There is the story of David and Bathsheba (II Samuel chapter 11), which came after David’s struggle to become king had succeeded and life had gotten easy for him. His “ministry” was damaged permanently and his usefulness to God greatly diminished.

Timothy was a young pastor, and therefore needed to be forewarned about this kind of temptation. His mentor, the Apostle Paul, spoke of the time when men in the church–not the world!–would be “treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (II Timothy 3:4-5). He was to “avoid such men as these.”

These are the kind of men, Paul says, “who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses….” (3:6).

Sometimes women are the victims, sometimes they are the victimizers.

Many a pastor has paid the ultimate price for sexual sins.

If temptation would tell the truth, no minister would ever succumb to its enticements. If the allurement to commit adultery would adhere to a “truth in advertising” code, the “full disclosure” would read something like this:

“Subject needs to understand that by crossing this line and entering into a sexual relationship with this person, the minister will be despising His Lord, delighting the enemy, violating his marriage vows, disappointing everyone who ever believed in him from his youth until now, destroying his family, and ending his ministry..”

No one would ever commit adultery if he was required to sign that!

The devil, however, has no intention of ever revealing a list of side effects. Listen to him and you would think to disobey God is the way to fulfillment and happiness.

The sinning minister fools himself into believing all kinds of lies, most of them originating with the one Jesus called “the father of lies” (John 8:44). He convinces himself that “I deserve this, no one will ever know, I can have all the wonderful things in my life and this forbidden fruit also,” and then, there is the clincher–“This feels so good, it can’t be wrong.”

Too late does he find out the truth of the old adage, that sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost far more than you ever intended to pay.

Here are 7 women, young pastor, to watch out for in your ministry.

1) The woman who wants to be your wife.

She is unhappily married. Her husband has disappointed her in a hundred ways. Sitting in church week after week, it occurs to her that you are everything she has ever wanted in a husband. You are kind and gracious, thoughtful and spiritual. You love the Lord and are devoted to your family. You earn a good living and you do not drink or smoke or hang out in bars. So, she fixates on you.

Now, if she were rational, she would know that by seducing you–or winning you, however she would put it–all of those wonderful qualities she admires would suddenly go away: your ministry, your family, your income, the respect with which you are held in the town, your joy in life even.

In most cases, she thinks clearly enough not to actually try to break up your marriage (although that has happened often enough). She merely feels a strong attraction to you and puts herself in a position for you to pick up on it. Consciously or unconsciously, she becomes a trap for the unsuspecting minister.

2) The woman who wants to be your mother.

She will smother you with attention, inundate you with goodies she cooked “just because I knew you liked these,” and make life miserable for you. If you never suffered from claustrophobia before, you do now.

It’s not so much that she poses a sexual danger to you as that by allowing and encouraging this attention from her, you will give occasion to gossips to ply their trade. Avoiding “the appearance of evil” is always a good principle (I Thessalonians 5:22).

3) The woman who wants to be your lover.

This one has a particular allurement to the minister whose relationship with his wife has grown  stale. This really is the woman the Proverb-writer describes. And, in case one wonders, I seriously doubt that Solomon wrote this. The man with 1,000 girlfriends is in no position to offer such advice as we find in Proverbs 4! (Although he surely knew the truth of it!)

Such a woman seems to be amoral, without a sense of wrongness about anything she does. She justifies making herself available to the minister by statements such as: “You deserve this,” “God wants all of us to be happy, don’t you agree?” and “No one ever has to know; I certainly won’t tell.”

The thing to keep in mind, pastor, is that this woman making herself so available to you with no strings attached–that’s what she says, although we know better!–does not look like a Jezebel, painted and padded and bejeweled. You will not know her by her adornments.

She may be the pretty wife of  a deacon, the friend of your wife, or a church member who came to you for counsel. No one would ever pick her out of a crowd as a party-girl. But she is your biggest enemy.

4) The woman who wants to be your best friend.

She wants to confide in you as to who is doing what with whom in the church. She is a gossip.

She wants you to (ahem) “feel free to come to me anytime you need to talk to someone.” She wants to be your counselor.

In order to pull that off, her primary tactic involves a) spending a lot of time around you, perhaps volunteering in the office but more likely volunteering as your personal assistant, b) telling you intimate things about her own life, and c) asking you to unburden yourself with her.

If she cannot worm her way into your life any other way, look for her to befriend your wife and begin showing up in your home on a regular basis. Unless your wife is on your team, nothing about this is good from that moment on.

5) The woman you want.

There she is, the girl of your dreams. Maybe not the most beautiful woman in the world, but all things considered–her looks, her personality, her laughter, her spirituality, and a few other qualities that defy description–she is everything you ever wanted in a woman.

You get all swimmy-headed around her. You wonder if she does not pick up on all the vibrations your body is sending out.

There are a few problems, of course. You’re married and she’s married, for starters. And so you wisely tell yourself this can never be, that regardless of how wonderful she is, she is off-limits to you.

The problem is you keep being drawn to her and thrown with her (committees, work projects, etc). Because proximity fosters intimacy, unless you do something quickly, you are a goner.

In most cases, you cannot tell your wife this. You need a mentor who will be tough with you. If you have none, find yourself one now! Confide in him before you make the mistake of your life.

6) The woman who doesn’t know what she wants.

In most cases, this mixed up lady has come to you for counsel, asking you to tell her what to do. You listen to her whole complex life story.

Nothing about her is your ideal. You have never fantasized about her or anyone like her.

So, how does she become a problem to you? By her repeated visits to your office.

It’s a matter of focus. In sketching perhaps a hundred thousand people over these many years, I’ve found that everyone has a certain beauty and attractiveness about them. By focusing on the individual and not comparing them with anyone else, we can see it.  In the seclusion of the counseling room, as she unburdens herself with intimate details of her life, the minister may feel emotionally drawn to her.

The problem then becomes you, pastor, and not her.

Pastors should almost never become professional counselors. When church members come to you for help with problems, if it cannot be solved in a session or two, refer them to a trained professional.

Pastor Ed Young of Houston’s Second Baptist Church told some of us pastors once that we should not counsel at all. “All you need is for someone–man, woman, or child–to run out of the office accusing you of something, and your ministry is gone!”

He’s right. Pastor Young said when someone says to him following a church service, “I need to talk to you sometime,” he says,”Let’s sit in this pew right now and talk.” It’s in public and it will be done quickly.

I hate that life has come to this, but it has, and we have to deal with it.

7) The woman you work most closely with in ministry.

Once again, it’s a matter of focus. The minister of worship meets with the organist (or pianist or his personal assistant or whoever) on a regular basis to plan the services. The youth minister has frequent conferences with his secretary or a young woman in the church who assists in programming. The pastor meets with his children’s director or ministry assistant or the head of the women’s ministry or the chair of his personnel or finance committee.

Beware, minister. You must be proactive in heading off any possibility of a compromised situation.

Billy Graham decided early in his ministry never to be alone with a woman at any time. Some might find that extreme, but say what you will, his long and very public evangelistic ministry was never tainted in the least by sexual scandal or innuendo.

The most important woman in the church to you the minister.

Your wife must be your lover, your intimate friend, your best adviser and strongest counselor, and your “mother” (the one who cooks your favorite dishes and is always there for you).

Let the home fires get cold and you are setting yourself up for trouble, pastor. This is why the writer of Proverbs urged the young man he was mentoring to “drink water from your own cistern, and fresh water from your own well.”  He says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 4:15-23).

A pastor I know makes frequent mention of his wife from the pulpit. He makes it abundantly clear that he loves her dearly and, may I say, you get the impression that their intimate relationship is strong. He makes sure the church knows and supports his devotion to his wife and family, which means (among other things) that his off-time is as holy as his time in the office.

When he counsels women in his office, my pastor friend takes care. The door has a small window which allows anyone to see inside. At an agreed-upon time, his assistant phones to allow him an excuse to end the session. He is not a hugger.

Oh, about this hugging business.

Stop it, pastor. You may hug anyone under 6 and over 66. Other than that, keep your hands to yourself.

Rationalize it how you will, the hugging pastor is usually trying to get some need of his own met by this physical activity. And, justify it however he tries, I guarantee you there are plenty of women in the church who would be thrilled to learn he wll not be touching them in this way again.

We have talked all around it and must not end this little essay without admitting it:

Often, the sexual temptation arises solely from within the minister, and not from the woman.

Sometimes, Lord help us, he is the predator.

My mentor in the ministry, Dr. James Richardson, long in Heaven by now, used to say, “That come-on the preacher sees coming from some woman in the church may be merely the reflection of the gleam in his own eye.”

Get your act together, man of God. Be strong in the Lord. Recognize that “your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).He would like nothing better than to destroy you, make a laughingstock of you in the community, end your ministry, and hurt those dearest to you.

Don’t let him.

Resist the devil by being strong in the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

22 thoughts on “Young Pastors: 7 Women to Watch Out For

  1. Excellent article on a subject pastors don’t usually like to discuss in public. Too there use to be a book in print about this book written by a Mississippi pastor, entitled “Preacher Behave”. And last one comment from a prof. at SWBTS stuck with me through the years. “Preacher don’t let 15 minutes of pleasure destroy the reputation it took a life-time to build”. Thanks for pastoring Pastors.

  2. Gordon, I illustrated that “Preacher, Behave” book for Dr. Clarke Hensley several decades ago. Then, maybe 10 or 12 years ago, he brought out an updated version. Anyone looking for it should try amazon.com or alibris.com. Thanks for reminding us.

  3. Joe, you hit a home run again! This is good advice for not only for the young minister, but also for the one who has been a pastor for many years. It is interesting that you mentioned your friend James Richardson. One of the best sermons I have ever heard was a sermon about Samson that James preached at a “M” Night service. The theme was “You Can’t Mess Around With Sacred Things and Expect Life to Turn Out Right.” One of the points in the sermon is your body is sacred to God and you can’t mess around with the use of your body and expect life to turn out right. What truth! Joe, please keep writing. You are an encouragement not only to young ministers but also to us who have been at it a long time.

  4. As a young minister who has been recently married (yesterday made it 3 months), I would like to say thank you. You are certainly right that if the ruined minister had taken time to count the cost of giving into temptation then he would not do it.

    I have, in the past, seen hints at some of these to watch out for. Your advice is some that I will continue to remind myself of. In the mean-time, I will borrow some words from Pastor Fred Luter in saying that my wife is “The apple of my eye… my prime-rib… my good thing…”

    I praise God for what he has done in my life, and I pray that I always know and remember how blessed I am.

  5. I have witnessed a pastor having dinner with a woman church member in a restaurant near his home, separated by an alley. He thought he was discreet to select such a secluded spot. After dinner, he walked the woman back to his apartment resident and had his way with her because she was in there for a long time. The woman is active in all church activities. She never misses church services and attends warrior prayer meetings that last till 2:00AM twice a week. The woman makes a point to see the pastor as frequently as she can. She sees the pastor at church, at his place of business, an ICafe and then at the pastor’s office which is next door to the Cafe, which operates without a secretary.

    So far the pastor has not yet been ousted, but his days are numbered as documented evidents mount. This woman is my friend’s girl friend who appears to be so hollier than thou, and no one would ever suspect that she is a seductress fouling up the pulpit. This pastor is married but his wife is not with him. Soon the world will know about the duplicitous life led by some of the so called men of God who prey upon the meek and helpless. Even if the woman is weak, isn’t the pastor supposed to be spiritually superior?

  6. Why put all the blame on the women? I see more news stories about predatory pastors than predatory congregants. Just do a Google search.

  7. I didn’t think I was doing that, Shannon, but just went back and reread the article and I think you are right. So, am working on a followup article. Thank you.

  8. Praise God! Very helpful and right on time. Sometimes they even try to get their attention even by the phone. Some of them don’t stop texting, they don’t respect. I have a question, should the ministers keep having communication with them? It is so bad these days to exchange phone numbers, you never know who you dealing with. Men should have men numbers and women have women numbers. To avoid conflicts. Thank you so much. God bless you and your marriage and ministry.

  9. I am a victim of Clergy Sexual Abuse at the hands of my former pastor. Please educate yourself about the seriousness of this issue. It is NEVER a consensual relationship, or affair because of the imbalance of power. While it is wise for pastors to be careful about putting themselves in questionable situations with women in their congregations, no blame should ever be placed on the victim/woman. There are many predators behind the pulpit. Here is a list of great resources to learn more about this abuse:

    Victim to Survivor, by Nancy Poling
    Sexual Abuse of Women by Members of the Clergy, by Kathryn Flynn
    Sex in the Forbidden Zone: When Men in Power betray Women’s Trust, by Dr. Peter Rutter
    Is Nothing Sacred? When Sex invades the Pastoral Relationship, by Marie Fortune
    How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct, by Dee Ann Miller
    The Truth about Malarkey, by Dee Ann Miller
    What about Her? A True Story of Clergy Abuse and Survival, by Beth Van Dyke
    Betrayal of Trust: Confronting and Preventing Clergy Sexual Misconduct, by Stanley Grenz
    Questions and Answers about Clergy Sexual Misconduct (From the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute), by Elizabeth Horst Ph.D.
    When Pastors Prey, by Valli Boobal Batchelor

  10. Last comment for the day. The questions I pose to my pastors are through emails so I won’t be accused of anything because after all, women are rotten, evil creatures that must be controlled by men yet it was generally men who, in the Bible, raped, sold, beat, and allowed their virgin daughters to be let loose to the masses to protect a man from being raped.

  11. You article says “young pastors” but only speaks to men about women. Would you apply the same points to women who are clergy? In this time and age you can be approach by either sex and thus one should be aware and guard oneself against sexual immorality period!

    • Friend Naomi, I don’t know enough about what women pastors experience to write such an article. One has to write about what he knows. While it’s true the article says ‘young pastors’–I was trying to address those just beginning in the ministry and starting to set some limits on themselves–there are over 2,000 articles in this blog, so (I have to keep reminding myself) one article only does so much. Thank you. (Perhaps you could write that article.)

  12. I have to express again my appreciation for your wisdom. Here in MN there are 10 of us who are all investors in True Friends’ Place which will hopefully be opening our first sober house as soon as our final state approval comes through. The first house will be a women’s sober house. This raises an issue for me, the resident pastor. The approach we have decided to take solves any issue with me offering pastoral services for these women which is very similar to what you mentioned that pastor doing who wouldn’t give hugs. The first plan is that under no circumstance will I, or the other male staff, be alone in a room with one of the women. The second part is that I will not go into any “counseling” session without a female staff present. It can’t just be another female (such as two female clients), it has to be another female staff. In our case, my wife will be the assistant-general manager so she’s my ideal person to go in with me if possible. However, my mother-in-law is the general manager so that works too. What this implies and tells the clients also is that confidentiality does not apply among staff. To be more clear what I mean is, straff will keep confidentiality among each other and will not discuss anything about the clients outside of the organization however, none of us promise that we will not discuss client issues with other staff members.

  13. I thank God for using you to expose what is actually going on in the ministry. What is your advice to a young minister who wants to get married before going to pastor a branch church?

    • No advice, Brother Francis, other than to get serious premarital counsel and to help her know what she’s getting into. If nothing else, have her take a veteran pastor’s wife or two to lunch and pick their brains. (Choose carefully to make sure the wives are Godly and mature, otherwise they could do damage.)

  14. Well spoken but… No hugging? how many times did John fall on Jesus’ neck? How many time did his disciples kiss him? what about greeting one another with an Holy Kiss? Being that I’m not a man, and I figure as a man, you must/might know what a man experiences in a hug– maybe you are aware of something that I am not. However, regardless, any man who is not able to hug a sister out of a pure heart is in need of deliverance— it is an act of familial love! There is a natural attraction that exist between a man and a woman, for either to be afraid of such is a sign of immaturity. Nevertheless, one must be vigilant, and despite all the talk of accountability {to various folks} and mentorship {of various folks}; the person you are most accountable to is the Lord and there is no mentor like the Holy Spirit. He is a confidant that does not betray or gossip… enter into that closet and speak to him in confession as if you are talking to a friend in front of you… you’d be surprise what that does. All in All, a warning well said pastor.

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