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March 11, 2010

How Finance, Sexual Wrongdoings Challenged One Church

A pastor's worst nightmare leads to a new beginning.

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My lawyer said, "Just follow my lead and answer the questions he asks, and everything will be okay." I clung to his advice as I entered the smartly decorated boardroom lined with towering bookshelves. The first thing I noticed was the videographer and stenographer setting up their equipment. Then the opposing counsel, who to me represented evil incarnate, walked into the room.

"Please state your full name for the record." His tone and mannerisms suggested this was strictly routine. For the others in the room, this was just another work day. They pushed buttons on the camera, they typed on the stenograph machine, they served coffee, they represented their clients—this was a 9-5 job for everyone in the room. Everyone, that is, except me.

I cleared my throat and said, "Ralph Webster Neighbour III."

"I am sure your lawyer has explained to you the deposition process, but let me explain it again for the record …"

There was that phrase again—"for the record." I thought: This is high stakes. The church's reputation and my future are on the line here! I also knew this deposition was just the beginning; we would walk at least another year through this legal maze.

I couldn't believe this was happening to me—a seventh generation pastor. But here I was, giving a deposition in a sexual misconduct lawsuit. This was not what I signed up for!

This article first appeared in Leadership journal. The full version is available at LeadershipJournal.net. For additional resources on embezzlement and sexual misconduct issues for churches, please visit:

- Secure Your Church Finances
- The Essential Guide to Church Finances
- Sexual Harassment in Your Church
- Boundaries for Healthy Church Relationships
- Child Sexual Abuse Response Plan
- Safe Mentoring Relationships
- Reducing the Risk, a child abuse prevention training program for church leaders.

Related Tags: child abuse, church building, community, embezzlement, finance, firing, leadership, liability, Media, public relations, risk, safety, security, sex offender, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, staff

Comments

Maybe it's just me, but the following paragraph strikes me as emblematic of the problem a lot of evangelical churches have in blindly adopting a commericial/marketing model for growth:

Step one was to "staff for growth." My first hire was a high-octane organizational genius. He had a knack for identifying a trend, programming to it, and rolling out events for our target group. He did an amazing job.

Impossible to say if this approach contributed to the problems with staff that were encountered later on, but it seems to me at least a possibility. Did Jesus perhaps get lost in all the trend analysis, programming, target groups and organizational genius?

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