Another well-known male church leader has stepped aside amidst allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women. At this point, these allegations appear (at least from what I’ve seen) to be reasonably well-founded.
I’ve seen some conversations unfolding online (and have now been involved with a couple of such conversations in person) concerning whether or not it’s becoming ‘too risky’ for men in positions of power to be actively involved in mentoring emerging female leaders. In the ongoing wake of #MeToo (and then #ChurchToo), concerns about false allegations being made seem to be running high, and there is a genuine possibility that this will lead to some men in positions of church leadership either giving up or cutting back on directly mentoring women leaders.
What an incredible shame that would be!
It is at least as clear now as it has ever been that churches are in dire need of more women in positions of leadership at every level, and it’s going to take our combined effort to see these emerging women leaders equipped and released into the ministry to which God has called them. With men currently occupying the overwhelming majority of church leadership positions in most Christian denominations, it is critical for male leaders to be involved with mentoring women (alongside existing female leaders—some of whom may have had good male mentors in the mix, some of whom may have benefited from such mentoring as they were starting out but who fought their way to where they are nevertheless).
Here, then, is my deep wisdom on the matter which I’m happy to share with any other male church leader who is interested: Mentor women; just don’t be that guy.
We know that false allegations are incredibly rare, because women already have so much to lose from any allegation made (even if it’s true!). If you mentor women and you’re not that guy, then it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever face any situation in which a false allegation is made.
So, spend time investing in women, sharing both the ‘wins’ and the ‘losses’ that you have experienced (and everything in between). Just don’t be that guy.
Be available to answer questions and to be a sounding board. Just don’t be that guy.
Meet with women as you would meet with men (because otherwise they will simply miss out on opportunities). Just don’t be that guy.
Make space for women to give things a go (and to fail), even if it means you have to get out of the way. Just don’t be that guy.
Invite women into decision-making processes, including the informal conversations that we all know are part of that process. Just don’t be that guy.
As my friend Megan has suggested, it’s especially important for us blokes to listen to women about how not to be that guy!
If you’re married and you feel like mentoring a woman is going to lead directly to an affair, then you probably shouldn’t be mentoring women because you probably shouldn’t be in ministry. If you think that mentoring a woman will cause you to lose control and to touch her inappropriately then, again, you probably shouldn’t be in ministry.
Dude! Don’t be that guy.
If, however, you are committed to helping raise up women leaders (as I think we must), and you’re reasonably confident that you’re not a creep, then forget the nonsense and just be the kind of mentor that those around you need.
Be a good mentor; don’t be that guy. Simple.