My first “big girl” job was working at a financial institution. I was 22, fresh out of college, and ready to dive into work. Young and naïve would be appropriate words to describe my first experience in the marketplace. Within the first year, there were many times my boss, the president, invited me to lunch—just the two of us. We discussed my performance, strategy, and life. I thought very little of it since he was my father’s age. He was a believer and loved his wife and family.
While there was never a moment of impropriety, I learned during those years that the best policy was one recently discussed in the media. The rule is to not dine alone with the opposite sex. It’s commonly referred to as the “Billy Graham Rule” which the evangelist adhered to throughout his ministry. While the mainstream media took offense to what they considered old-fashioned, I have found it to be a helpful rule in preserving my marriage and integrity as a ministry leader.
Maybe you’ve faced this same dilemma or maybe you’ve never considered this choice. Depending on your age and your culture, spending time one-on-one with the opposite sex is a common day occurrence. While this post isn’t meant to criticize your own personal choices, I would at least ask you to consider the benefits of following the “Billy Graham Rule.” If you are a women’s ministry leader or a leader in the marketplace, I think there are valid reasons why you should consider adopting this policy and forego times of being alone with another man who isn’t your husband. If you’re single, I will address that situation as well.
1. If you are married, adopting this policy shows respect for your husband and respect for your relationship. My husband and I are very open about those we work with. Because I’m in a ministry setting and have often worked with men, he is aware of those relationships. He has never questioned their respect for me because we have set boundaries in place.
2. We are all vulnerable to temptation. I trust my husband and he trusts me, but I don’t want to get to the point where I think I’m above temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” By observing the Billy Graham rule, I eliminate the position of being tempted. This also goes for closed doors.
3. Affairs don’t happen over night. They begin with an emotional attachment. Unfortunately, I have experienced the hurt of seeing men and women in ministry fail morally. Most of the time, it was an unhealthy emotional attachment that led to physical intimacy. By setting boundaries, you can safeguard your heart as well as your purity. If you need to speak to someone about marriage issues, find a counselor of the same gender. I would advise any pastor to not counsel women privately and the same for a woman to not counsel a man.
4. Do not give the appearance of wrongdoing. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Stay away from every kind of evil.” Even in situations where I know I’m not going to be tempted, I don’t want to give an appearance of evil to those who might see me. They don’t know the situation and can always question my intentions. By observing the Billy Graham rule, I eliminate any question someone else might have about my integrity.
5. It’s easy to keep when it is part of the workplace policies. Whether I have worked on a local church staff, in a denominational role or denominational entity, there has been a strict policy about not dining alone with the opposite sex or even being in the same car alone with the opposite sex. There were serious repercussions if this policy was not taken seriously.
6. What if you’re single? If you are single and you are dating someone, there are going to be times when you are alone with that person. In the beginning stages of a dating relationship, it might be easiest to meet in a group setting, but that is a personal decision based on many factors. If you are single, it is safe to say that you should never dine or travel with a married adult.
7. It can hurt your testimony and how the world sees the church. There are too many stories of infidelity among the church. It’s easy for the world to observe the outward failings of those in ministry leadership. While all of us are broken and in need of a Savior, let’s not damage the testimony of the church by putting ourselves in vulnerable situations.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.