February 6, 2012

Boundaries: What Do You Do?

Last week I was talking with a friend, whose husband is a pastor. She explained a situation with someone at her church, which left her feeling uncomfortable and perplexed. She described how a leader in the church, comes to her, places his hands on her shoulders and massages gently. He does this with other women too. She does not know if she should say anything to this man--she fears angering him--with possible repercussion to her husband, in a fairly recent appointment.

Interestingly, I had a similar experience a few days ago. I was a presenter at a district event. I entered the church, and was talking to a few people in the hallway. The pastor of the church, whom I do not know, came to me, wrapped his arms around me, got right in my face, and said, 'Can I help you find your room?' I was astonished. I stepped away quickly from his "embrace" and said,"No I know where to go."

Maintaining appropriate boundaries in a church can be very delicate for a pastor/spouse/family and a congregation.

How do others handle such situations?

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana


  1. This has also happened to me. It's hard to know what to do when the person is a very visible leader in the church. I told my spouse and we later found out that this man had a long history of inappropriate touching women in the church. My husband confronted him, but did so in with other church leaders. The man was also asked to withdraw from all district and conference positions, which he did. I don't want to give the impression that crossing boundaries happens a lot, but it does occur. Over the years my gut has been more accurate than not.

  2. This has also happened to me in my husband's new appointment. I told the elderly gentleman responsible, who considered it his job to be the official church "hugger", that I did not want to be kissed on the mouth by him and my husband told him too but he ignored the requests and continued to come up behind me and turn me and kiss me without my having time to do anything short of screaming. He also made comments about how he needed to teach my husband "how to kiss his wife" and how much he was enjoying all of this. Most recently our lay leader went to him at his home and told him to stop and while he has done so, at least for now, there are some in the church that don't see anything wrong with his behavior. I was astonished that this could be a problem in the 21st century but apparently it is. There is a big difference between a kiss on the cheek of Christian love and trying to make out with someone's wife. Thank you for bringing this up. I don't feel so alone now!