#MeToo took social media by storm a few weeks ago as the Harvey Weinstein scandal came into light. For the most part, churches have been fairly quiet on this. Pastors often shy away from anything controversial and want to stick to the Gospel. But in this case it’s missing an incredible (and needed) opportunity to minister to the church. The statistics are staggering and a pastor could have a significant portion of the congregation who have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault. The real question is not “should a pastor address this issue?” but “how does a pastor best address this issue?”.
Here are three ways pastors can be a champion for those who have experienced this injustice.
The vast majority of victims are women and the vast majority of pastors are men. Therefore pastors in general simply don’t and cannot fully understand the problem of harassment and assault. The wise course of action when you don’t understand something is to listen and learn (Proverbs 1:5, James 1:19). So before any action is taken and before any words are spoken, LISTEN. Take time to meet with your female staff, volunteers, community leaders, etc. and learn from those who have experienced this.
Provide support, professional if needed
Pastoral counseling is an extremely valuable skill for any pastor. You may not have the opportunity to be a licensed counselor but every pastor should get some training in counseling. But you might run into two problems with this issue. Since the majority of victims are women, they may not feel comfortable receiving any type of counseling or support from a male pastor. Or, you may simply get to a place in counseling that is beyond your training. If this is the case, churches should set up a system to offer professional counseling for people who cannot afford it.
Preach from every angle
There are many ways a pastor can preach into this. Here are some:
- Compassion: Victims sometimes get blamed. Preach about God’s compassion (Colossians 3:12, Isaiah 49:13).
- Respect: Harassment happens when people don’t see each other the way God see us. Preach about humanity’s identity (Genesis 1:27).
- Worth: Victims often live with shame. Preach about their worth in God’s eyes (Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5).
- Forgiveness: Forgiveness isn’t about the perpetrator. It’s about the victim’s spiritual and emotional freedom (Psalm 103:10-12). Science also backs up the benefits of forgiveness.
- Healing: People who have experienced harassment and assault need to know that God heals (Exodus 15:26, Matthew 11:28, Psalm 30:2).
- Response: Pastors can inspire a generation of people who stand against injustice and stand with victims (James 1:27).
Every Sunday there are pews full of people who live with the wounds of sexual harassment and assault. Pastors have the opportunity to speak God’s love, healing, justice, and life to a lot of hurting souls. Imagine the transformation of lives and the shift in society if the Church rose up and said #MeToo, followed with, “And let me tell you how God changed everything.”