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Creating Church Policies That Help Your Staff Overcome Porn

Last Updated: March 5, 2021

Chris McKenna

Chris McKenna is a guy with never-ending energy when it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of children. He is the founder of Protect Young Eyes, a leading digital safety organization. Chris practices his internet safety tips on his four amazing children and is regularly featured on news, radio, podcasts, and most recently on Capitol Hill for his research. His 2019 US Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was the catalyst for draft legislation that could radically change online child protection laws. With expertise in social media usage, parental controls, and pornography use in young people, Chris is highly sought after as a speaker at schools and churches. Since 2016, Chris has worked with Covenant Eyes creating educational resources to help individuals and families overcome porn. Other loves include running, spreadsheets, and candy.

This post has been updated as of March 5, 2021.

I was listening to a podcast from a popular megachurch. Instead of the usual welcome, the senior pastor used the first five minutes of the podcast to tell the thousands of subscribers that church leadership had recently discovered that one of its pastors was caught having an inappropriate relationship. As a result, the church’s leadership team followed a pre-defined process to address this failure of leadership, which ultimately led to the removal of this pastor from his role.

I was reminded of something I heard from leadership guru John Maxwell: “Don’t hide bad news. With multiple information channels available, bad news always becomes known. Be candid right from the start.”

I was initially shocked by this public, “calling out” of the pastor’s actions, but it was clear that this particular church simply followed a pre-established process that guided its decision-making. Yes, it was a horrible week in the life of the church. I could hear the pain and heartache in the voice of the senior pastor as he publicly explained the steps leadership took. But, the existence of a pre-defined policy took away the subjectivity that can cloud decision-making in the midst of an emotional situation.

Developing processes and policies to help church staff struggling with lust is not an easy task. Many church staff members are guilty on some level of violating Jesus’ admonish of not looking lustfully (Matt. 5:27-28). However, the Word of God gives ample truth to guide us. Here are some general principles based on these biblical conclusions that can be used to develop specific guidelines for your church/denomination:

1. Be clear and consistent with expectations. Even expectations about porn.

As we read in the book of Titus, Paul left Titus in Crete in order to raise men up to strive for a high moral standard. Church leadership must be very clear with the expectations of its staff both in spoken and written form as it relates to sexual sin. This starts in its hiring process where staff expectations are clearly laid out. It might include a “purity policy” that is taken seriously. It might include a requirement that all staff computers use Covenant Eyes and that an ally is in place.

God will not use a dirty cup. Pastors and anyone in church leadership must clearly understand that they cannot possibly hope to lead their people into purity if they are stuck in the muck of sexual sin (Matthew 7:5).

2. Measure the discipline to the degree of the sin.

God always disciplines His children in love and with the most gracious means that will bring about repentance. Is a warning and the taking of further preventive steps (e.g., Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability services) enough? How about counseling and accountability only? Is an administrative leave necessary? Is permanent disqualification or a criminal investigation required?

Church policies must define stages of pornography consumption (i.e., curiosity vs. experimental vs. habitual vs. addiction), related suspension/leave consequences, and associated treatment options. Policy wording should make a clear distinction between staff members who humbly confess their struggle with pornography and submit to help versus staff members who persist in denying their porn sin, hiding it, and rejecting accountability. Draw clear lines that church staff cannot cross without incurring disciplinary consequences (Hebrews 12:6).

3. Strive to restore whenever possible.

Remember how Christ mended the wounds of a broken fisherman named Peter and how He restored him to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). And don’t forget the story of John Mark. After Paul rejected him, Barnabas worked with him and brought about spiritual growth. In the end, he became useful to Paul.

When the actions of the disciplined staff person exhibit remorse and repentance, then hold him or her up as a trophy of grace to others. After all, Peter became the rock on which Christ built His church.

4. Do hard things wherever necessary.

Remember God’s warning to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified’” (Leviticus 10:3, ESV). If a staff member must be removed for a habitual, unrepentant, or egregious sin, then the church must remove him or her. We must be jealous for the name of Jesus and be convinced that we do great harm to the church, and even to the leaders themselves, when we leave men and women in ministries when God has made it obvious that He wants them removed.

5. Pray! Pray! Pray!

Church leaders should pray often for the purity and protection of the entire church staff. Psalm 119:37 (ESV) can guide here, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”

As you pray, remember Jesus can empathize with all of our weaknesses. He Himself prayed for Peter knowing that he would fall. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32, ESV).

Healthy Churches Follow Through

In closing, let me offer two final words of advice.

First, intervention is a process that will vary from situation to situation. Therefore, leave room in your policy for case by case discretion. Be wise.

Second, removing a staff member for disciplinary reasons is always hard. So after intense prayer and a careful application of Scripture, if your situation requires dismissal of a staff member because of egregious or unrepentant porn use, then fearing God, do it with great courage and resolve.

To get started taking the steps toward creating a grace-filled culture that tackles pornography head-on, please download the first of our Ministry Leader Guidebooks called The Prepared Ministry: Policies That Heal and Protect From Porn. It’s filled with practical tips to help you create policies for your church staff and address pornography with your congregation.


Want to learn more about how your church can be protected from the temptations and dangers of pornography? Our Church Team wants to help you! Contact one of our Church Consultants by calling 989-720-8188, or email them at communities@covenanteyes.com.

  • Comments on: Creating Church Policies That Help Your Staff Overcome Porn
    1. Melissa on

      What do you recommend when the church leader asks to have his name removed from the church roles? Can you “excommunicate” when he is no longer a member? Is that a loop hole the a Christian leader in sexual sin can use to avoid church disciple?

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi, Melissa, I’m not sure. If he doesn’t want healing and is no longer serving, then I don’t think church discipline will make a difference. But, I’m sure there are a lot of details missing from the story, so I have a very limited perspective.

        Chris

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