Misuse of money, sex and power are besetting sins for ministers and church members alike. But we barely talk about these matters. Where can we begin?
On any given day, in 15 minutes of radio or television news coverage, you are likely to hear about the use and abuse of money, sex and power. These subjects seem to dominate daily media discussions, but many of us have rarely, if ever, spent considerable time discussing these matters in church. Even so, few among us have not experienced the pain and disappointment of the abuses of money, sex or power in the church. In fact, for many churches, these subjects are only discussed in whispers in corners after abuses already have taken place.
Regarding financial matters, the first place we might begin is in budget discussions. Church budget decisions ought to be handled openly. All members of the church not only should receive copies of the church budget, but they also should have adequate time to examine, reflect and question the financial decisions of the church. Perhaps specific examples ought to replace broad and vague budget line items.
Further, let’s talk about financial decision-making when we teach from Scripture. For instance, let’s talk about how we use our money when we read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, rather than only discussing the use of abilities. In a world plagued with financial crisis and debt, we need to help church members gain understanding to make wise decisions.
If we don’t begin to speak openly about God’s intent for healthy sexual expression within marriage, then the only images that will guide the decisions of church members are those portrayed by the media. Perhaps we need to host classes for parents to help them prepare to discuss sex with their children in age-appropriate ways. We need to help church members and ministers alike celebrate, build and maintain healthy marriages. For our ministers and teachers, we need to create policies that can help protect them from falling into sexual temptation or being accused falsely, including creating office and classroom spaces with windows, limiting pastoral counseling sessions, running background checks and providing mandatory learning opportunities about how to protect children and vulnerable populations in our churches from sexual predators.
Issues relating to the abuse of power often are the result of a similar lack of discussion about service in leadership as well as poorly written policies and procedures that can provide accountability in church decision-making. Education and accountability are valuable teaching tools. So let’s begin by having open and honest conversations within our Sunday school classes, from the pulpit, in church business meetings and at home while creating policies that provide accountability and safety precautions.
Emily Row Prevost, team leader/coordinator leader
Communications/spiritual formation specialist
Baptist General Convention of Texas, Dallas