Well, Parson Brown, Christmas time is here, that busy season when you feel like you just got run over by a reindeer. Before you get lost in the busyness, stop and consider: many people accuse clergy of sexual improprieties, even during the holidays. Sadly, those claims are often true. But sometimes the accusations are false, forcing innocent ministers and their families to endure wagging tongues at best and lawsuits at worst.
Take these steps to a merry—and allegation-free—Christmas.
- Don’t stick your head in the snow. False accusations can happen to you. Do what you can to protect yourself.
- Circle your evergreens. Surround yourself with those you trust—your wife, your staff, your deacons and elders. Maintain your devotional life. God is the biggest hedge of all.
- Make a list. Keep with you the names and phone numbers of people who can help you when needed: a mature deacon’s wife to counsel a distraught lady. An elder to stick around after cantata practice so you aren’t left alone with the female choir director. A fellow minister to step in when you sense a counselee becoming too dependent.
- And check it twice. Make clear notes in a journal or daily planner of any incidents that may raise concerns in future.
- Take down the mistletoe. Maintain appropriate physical boundaries. Don’t kiss, hug, touch, or horseplay in a way that might seem even a little suggestive.
- Keep the ho-ho-ho’s clean. Avoid telling jokes or making comments that could be misinterpreted.
- Share the sleigh ride. When driving ladies, children, or youth home after the Christmas party, find another adult to ride along.
- Brighten a blue Christmas. The holidays often mean an increase in hurting people who need comfort, but proceed with caution. Women should minister to women whenever possible. If you must go meet with a lady or a minor, bring along a third person. If no one can go with you, do your counseling via telephone.
- Walk in a winter wonderland. Hold personal sessions out in the open. If it’s too cold to go outside, leave office doors open and/or use a meeting room with windows. Insist that sessions occur during regular hours when others are near.
- Wrap it up. Keep counseling sessions to 45 minutes or less, and don’t counsel one person more than five times in a year. Too much time together could lead the counselee to a false understanding of your relationship.
- Jingle those (telephone) bells. Know when to call others for help and when to refer your counselee to an outside professional.
- God rest ye, merry gentleman. When you’ve taken precautions to prevent unjust finger-pointing, simply watch over your flock as God has called you to do. Trust Him to safeguard you and your family.