New Normal: Men and Women Together in Ministry

There needs to be a “new normal” when it comes to staff and leadership relationships at MPVCC. As we endeavor to research, think, and pray about an “official” set of guidelines, the following article should help us. The list below has been adapted from an article in Youth Specialties by Kara Hall. Ms. Hall is a youth ministry professor at Azusa Pacific University and coordinates the Women’s Youth Network. She also serves as the research assistant for Youth Specialties and is co-author of the Good Sex: Youth Leader’s Curriculum. She uses Samson’s story as a springboard to create healthy relationships with co-workers of the opposite sex. To read the whole article click here. (FYI note, the author’s last name in the article is different from her last name on the book.)

When it comes to relationships with the opposite gender, we all need others to hold us accountable. We need others to walk around in our lives, pull back the curtains from our hearts and souls, and reveal any sin and confusion that, in the name of leadership, we try so hard to keep hidden.

1. Develop accountability relationships. Prayerfully identify people with whom you can meet regularly. Make a covenant of complete honesty. Give them permission to ask tough questions about any part of your life—from money and sex to workload and prayer. That way, when the time comes, you’ll have a safe place to share any confusing or inappropriate boundaries that are creeping up in your working relationships.

2. Be honest about unhealthy attractions. If you’re married or seriously dating, decide at what point you’ll tell your partner about any unhealthy attractions. Talk ahead of time about what level of disclosure is best for your relationship given who each of you are, how you communicate, and how committed you are.

3. Beware of any environment that smacks of dating. At times, we will need to meet alone with a professional colleague or volunteer staff of the opposite sex. Sometimes colleagues meet in an office (with the door open!), other times at a restaurant or a coffee house. But when meeting, pick Denny’s instead of Chez Romantique, and have breakfast or lunch instead of dinner, and tell your spouse, or accountability partner about it beforehand.

4. Know your colleague’s significant other. If I’m going to be working closely with a man, I try to go on a walk or have lunch with his wife or girlfriend. Instead of being threatening to her, I want her to know that I’m cheering for both her and their relationship.

5. Get a personal life. Last week I was at a Women’s Youth Network meeting with a handful of other women. Some of them started joking about how their ministry schedules prevented them from having a personal life. Ten years ago I would’ve joined right in; today, I’m alarmed. Men and women who are so immersed in ministry that they lack outside lives are prime candidates for inching, or perhaps racing, past emotional boundaries.

Maybe you’ve started to wonder if you’re emotionally enmeshed with someone of the opposite gender. Resist the temptation to let your busyness and routine drown out the question. Start an accountability relationship by seeking out someone to talk to about it this week. The very same grace that allows us to have a relationship with God is the same grace that enables us to have healthy relationships with each other.

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