5 Reasons Ministers Are (More) Vulnerable to Sexual Temptation


PurityLet me start off by saying, no one is immune to sexual temptation.  It doesn’t matter what your job is, how old you are, or how much time you spend with Jesus each day.  We all have the potential to fall sexually.

Even ministers… and maybe, especially ministers.

Ministers have jobs that automatically put them in a pressure cooker.  It’s not unusual to have a stressful job, but there are five unique aspects of a ministry position that make him more vulnerable to opening the door to sexual temptation.

1.  A pastorate is a place of power – Whether the minister is using it or not, he has great influence over others.  The pastor is an authority, he is looked up to, he is on stage, and is usually highly regarded.  Broken people with damaged lives come regularly to talk with the minister, many of them desperate for a word or attention.  It is not hard for a minister to sway others with their words or personality.  The minister probably doesn’t realize the power he has over others.

2.  Ministers are often isolated and unaccountable for their actions Ministers spend large amounts of time alone.  Many don’t have a set schedule or a structured day.  They don’t have to clock in and out of work, and don’t usually have church leaders asking them accountability questions.  This is especially true for small church minister who is often the only staff member.  Isolation and lack of accountability are seedbeds for disaster.

3.  Protection and policies around ministers can be laxChurches rarely have policies requiring accountability software on their computer or mobile phone.  Few or no precautions are taken when the minister is counseling someone of the opposite sex.  And ministers often go on visitation to homes by themselves.  Policies don’t cure bad behavior or a wayward congregant, but they provide an extra boundary that may be a difference maker in a tempting situation. 

4.  Ministers have few people they can share their deepest struggles with - It’s hard for a minister to be transparent.  His closest relationships are usually church people, and he doesn’t want to share his deeply with parishoners.  Neither does he share his personal or sexual struggles or sexual struggles with other ministers, for fear he might lose his job.

5.  Ministers frequently feed off the approval of others - Ministers can be approval addicts.  Their identities can revolve around the attention and comments of others.  A minister’s well-being, if it is unhealthy, rises and falls with every “Good sermon” or “Sister Jones is mad at you.”  Not only are broken church members looking for attention, but so are broken ministers.  Sexual tension in a minister / parishioner relationship is powerful and deadly.  It pushes the button of an approval addict and the needy church member and can quickly lead to disaster.

Unfortunately, we must initiate these conversations with our staff and church leaders.  It’s doubtful a lay leader or denominational leader will get the ball rolling, until there is a moral failure.  It takes courage to talk about potential holes in our ministry.  It takes a higher motivation for integrity and sexual purity to draw boundaries, write policies, and set up accountability.

These are points of vulnerability.  They have been fault lines for many ministers before us who have fallen sexually.  We ministers have a high responsibility and are accountable for the souls of many.  We mustn’t be lax in dealing with areas of sexual vulnerability or questioning our staff about them.

For more help with the topic of sexual purity, visit Porn to Purity.

Graphic by Jonathan Kendall.

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About Jeff Fisher

Jeff Fisher is a minister, blogger and podcaster from Raleigh, NC. He is a graduate of Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth and pastored churches in Texas and New York. Deep recovery began for Jeff when his pornography addiction caused him to lose his ministry position. For the first time, he began discovering the sexual health that God intended for him and for his marriage.

Jeff and his wife Marsha run Porn To Purity, a site designed to offer hope, encouragement, and resources to individuals and couples struggling with sexual sin. His podcast "Top Tips For Sexual Purity Podcast" can be found on I-Tunes. Jeff is a regular writer for XXXChurch.com and CovenantEyes.com.

  • OJB

    Great INFO and REAL TALK!…Well needed in Pastors/Clergy/Church Staff Conferences.

  • Hope Griffin

    One of the best pieces of advice I took with me from seminary was when a professor said he kept a list in the top drawer of his desk of all the things and people he would lose if had an affair. Then whenever he was tempted sexually in anyway he would just pull out that list and remember that it wasn’t worth losing the names on that list.

    I’ve never written out my own list but when my husband is deployed (b/c that is when I am the most vulnerable) I have a mental one I check through whenever I am tempted in anyway to do anything that would jeopardize my marriage or my ministry.

  • Caeparris

    This article has a male bias.  Because we are so new and do not have the same projection as the men, women pastors do not have the same issues to the same extent because most are new in their traditions and
    However the lonliness and isolation can make anyone stumble and sin.

  • Natalliajones

    This is good. We need more conversations like this. And, as much as we hate it, we need to be reminded to keep these issues everpresent in our minds. We also need to talk about it more constantly to remain accountable.

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  • Beenthere Donethat

    Well done, Jeff.  Totally right on…especially points 2 and 5.  I’m walking in your shoes and I can say with certainty…you know what you’re talking about.  I suspect that the vast majority of pastors in the world today have struggles they wish they could tell someone about but the fear of losing their job causes them to suffer silently and simply “try harder.” Well, I know from personal experience that “trying harder” did not bring me to faith in Christ (Titus 3:5) and “trying harder” did not help when trying to overcome sin (Gal. 3:3).  The only option seems to be to “boast about my WEAKNESS” that the power of Christ may be seen in me.  (Read everything ever written by the apostle Paul especially Romans 6, 7, 8)  When I am weak…then HE is strong. Fear and Pride kept me from admitting my need for Jesus and the result was absolutely devastating to me, to my wife, to my family and to many others I’m sure.  I have a heart to see believers shed the “I’m doing fine” mask and begin to tell the truth about how we’re REALLY doing.  My sense is that bringing light to that kind of darkness would bring about personal and corporate revival like we’ve never known. God bless you and Marsha for telling the truth.  God is gonna use your story to help many others.  You sure blessed me.  

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  • Ihrleben

    Keeping it real folks.  First of all I am a female Army Chaplain. I also noticed this article mentions men a lot. Let us be honest, whether male or female in ministry we all face struggles regardless of gender.  Also, what this article fails to mention is vicarious trauma.  When we work with people all day on most days who hurting it gets exhausting at some points until wonderful individual walks into our lives and lights up our world….  This image that we portray of having the perfect life, with the perfect family, children who always behave and dog who never poops on the carpet gets pretty old after a while.  The point is the first step is we need real; however, there needs to be a place safe place for us so we can be real about the struggles and get help for the struggles without fear of judgment, condemnation or otherwise.  Ministers need a place for spiritual rejuvenation too.  I try to remember in my ministry that although I am a representative of the Lord, I am not the Lord and that I need to take care of myself as well.  An ages old question to ponder, “how do we expect to care for others if we cannot or will not take care of ourselves?”

    • Hope Griffin

      Well said.

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  • Eddie Jones

    Both men and women should read this, I hear from women all the time saying they don’t understand the curse with which men live, but it’s real, deadly and destroying the Church from the inside. Continue to expose this sin, this lust of the eyes, to the light, Jeff.  Great job!
    Eddie Jones, co-author of: He Said, She Said. http://www.amazon.com/Said-She-Devotional-Cultivating-ebook/dp/B004EEOGZS/

    • Ginklestinker

      Eddie, you must have bright stars in your eyes not to know that the female of the species can be more cunning and deadly than the male in these matters . Every Eve knows something of the weakness of men and where her power could lie.  Not all, but too many women  consider men to be as kitchen floor tiles…. if you bed them well you can walk all over them !  The current cultural, autocratic structure of the so-called ‘Ministry’ exposes men to these very high danger zones mentioned in the article.  If anyone wants to avoid these offences, the scriptural advice is to ‘cut and run’, even if it means a major change in the form of your Christian ministry.  Better to do this now, than to bring down the whole house down with you later. 

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