WEEK 6 - Create an Environment of Safety

Before You Get Started

Welcome to Week 6. Below is your  video and challenge for the week.

We hope you enjoy learning about this week’s Best Practice and we will be praying for you as you develop the female leaders on your team!


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Video Six - Create and Environment of Safety

This Week's Challenge...

Take some time to think through how your personal or church integrity practices might be helping some leaders and hindering others. Choose a trusted friend to talk through how you can re-think these practices to both protect yourself and provide equal opportunities. Here are some possible commitments to get you started:

  1. I will protect my own purity by __________________________.

  2. I will make myself accountable to __________________________.

  3. I will regularly teach about and advocate for personal purity in my own life, the life of our church, and in the life of others.

  4. I will not neglect the development of others by committing to Always Take Two.

Discuss With Your Team...

  • What’s your response to the idea that the Billy Graham Rule needs to be expanded to fit our day and culture? In your church, what are some adaptations you can make to be protective but inclusive of the women on your team?
  • How can you adjust your personal leadership practices to be able to offer equal opportunities to both men and women whom you lead or influence?
  • What assumptions need to be challenged in your church culture to make sure both male and female leaders can be developed fully?


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Video - Debbie Pell

Debbie is the Executive Director of Ministry at Celebration Church in Matairie, LA.

Overview - Week 6

With the #metoo movement, the conversation about how women and men work together has taken a dramatic shift… and it needed to.

It is estimated that over 1/3 of all woman have been sexually abused or harassed at WORK. At their jobs. In my research for the book, more than 15% of the female leaders who took our survey had experienced in appropriate treatment or advances by their male leaders. That means by their PASTOR. That’s 200 women who just took our survey. We are in an epidemic and the #metoo and #churchtoo movements have done a great job raising awareness of what is really happening behind closed doors and the need for all of us to step in and lead our organizations differently.

But what it hasn’t done yet is given us healthy and clear next steps to make those changes happen. As with any shift in culture, we are in the messy middle with extreme suggestions being thrown around and most of us feeling paralyzed because we don’t know which is the right way to go.

How do we protect the integrity of our personal lives and leadership yet at the same time include both men and women in leadership circles? We want to walk in faith and the strength that God gives us to overcome, yet at the same time, we know that we are all vulnerable to sexual temptation and should flee from it. And in ministry, it’s even more critical – our entire organizations can be taken out by one bad situation.

I get it. But we can’t settle for the simplicity of extreme thinking. I believe there are many leaders figuring out another way forward. In fact, I believe the common practices that many of us have been using aren’t actually as protective in our current culture as we think.

My formal ministry jobs have all been in churches that have used The Billy Graham Rule. These are a series of guidelines is based on Billy Graham’s early evangelistic ministry in the 1940s. Billy Graham and his team were a part of a bigger wave of famous traveling evangelists and the secular media was regularly reporting on the large crowds and incredible responses that their meetings were having. The problem is that with the media attention came a lot more scrutiny. And many of the other evangelists were discovered to be inflated their reported attendance numbers, collecting huge offerings from attendees, and having sexual affairs as they traveled from city to city. Billy Graham and his team, in an effort to prevent any reporters from assuming the worst of them or reporting something that would hurt their ministry, committed to a Manifesto in which they established certain boundaries and guidelines that they knew would protect their integrity with the press. There were actually 4 topics of the Manifesto, as outlined in Billy Graham’s autobiography:

  1. How they handled their finances, including not manipulating peoples’ emotions for financial gain. They decided to always do all their fundraising before coming to a community so that they would never be tempted to have a conflict of interest.

  2. How they reported what God was doing, including making sure they never inflated their attendance numbers to be impressive or attract other people

  3. They committed to only working in a way that upheld the local church. Other evangelists were pulling people and money from local churches. Billy Graham and his team wanted to make sure they always partnered with local churches to add to the work they were doing in a community, not distract from it.

  4. And, finally, they felt convicted to no ever be seen in public alone with a woman so that someone from the media couldn’t photograph them or assume that they were having an affair.

I love these practices. I actually wish pastors would commit to all four of these, not just the last one.

I’ve personally led in several ministry settings in which this Billy Graham Rule, as it’s become known as, is in effect. And I am thankful to say that I think this guideline has been very helpful in creating an environment for me to lead with teams of mostly men and not fallen victim to any overtly abusive or harassing behavior. Now, I’ll admit that there have been some awkward moments and uncomfortable misunderstandings. But having appropriate boundaries openly talked about and specific guidelines given to us as staff kept us all aware of the dangers and on guard against temptation.

But the downside is that teams aren’t mechanical. We operate based on relationships and trust, especially in a church community. Think about it: If you were to give advice to an up-and-coming leader on how to grow and learn to be better, you’d probably recommend building relationships with other people on their team. You’d encourage them to network and offer to do extra work or take on extra projects to gain experience but especially to gain access to leaders that are higher up. You’d tell them to take an interest in their life or build a relationship with them outside of work. All those things are important when working with other people. It’s often this INFORMAL NETWORK with “Others” that opens up doors of opportunity.

So when we remove some of our leaders from building those organic relationships with the people they work with, it greatly limits their ability to do their job and advance in leadership. It would be the same for any other minority. What if a senior leader of a church would never meet alone with any leader on the team who was black or Hispanic or in a wheelchair? It feels weird, right? Plus, it would be so limiting to these staff members who need direct access to their leader.  

I actually think that in today’s culture, the Billy Graham Rule doesn’t go far enough. We live in an LGBTQ culture. A male senior pastor traveling alone with a male seminary intern is no longer considered “above reproach.” Even though we’ve relied on gender based discipleship for decades, I think it’s pretty clear that ‘men only ministering to men’ and ‘women only ministering to women’ is not a guarantee of sexual purity. In addition, our ways of communicating and connecting are completely different than it was in 1948. When Billy Graham was on the road, he may or may not have access to a telephone to call his wife every night in the hotels they stayed in. Today, we have constant access to one another. In the last two churches I’ve worked with who have had a moral failure on their staff, both situations involved secret email and social media accounts in which the affairs were initiated. These people never met for dinner or rode in a car together alone.

I think it’s time we rethink these important yet outdated safety practices. One important leadership development principle is to “always taking someone with you.” The idea is that as you go about doing your work, bring someone along to watch and learn from you. So if you are going to visit someone in the hospital, take a younger leader along and let them watch you and ask questions. It uses your time effectively and builds them up at the same time. I want to challenge you to expand that principle to fit today’s culture. Instead of always taking someone with you, Always Take Two. It can be a male and a female, two guys, or a guy and a girl. By adding a third person we get a win:win – your integrity is protected AND we don’t leave anyone out of learning from you simply because of their gender.

Changing your habits and practices to include women does take both intention and intentionality. It’s not enough just to be aware of the need, we all have to take a close look at how we are creating a culture of both safety and access.

If you want more thoughts on how to create a culture of safety for women and how some church leaders are recreating the Billy Graham Rule, check out Chapter 6 in the Developing Female Leaders book.


Have any questions about this masterclass?  Please contact Kate Lincoln on our support team. She’ll be happy to assist!