Page 6 of 19

How your church board acts within the first 24 hours of a ministerial moral failure is crucial.

What You Must Do the First 24 Hours After a Leader's Moral Failure

In the religious and nonprofit world, a leader's moral failure still has a major impact.

Along with the theological and scriptural issues, there's also a significant trust issue involved. The common thinking is that if he or she can't be trusted to honor marriage vows, then the leader is likely untrustworthy in other areas as well.

However you personally fall on the spectrum of that thinking, the truth is, churches, ministries, and nonprofits take a heavy hit when a leader has an affair, or worse, is involved in illegal sexual behavior. In these cases, how the organization reacts in the first 24 hours is critical.

Having advised numerous organizations through these difficult situations, here's my recommendations for the first 24 hours of the crisis:

1. Act quickly. In the digital era we live in, it's not just our theology or moral principles at issue, it's about telling the story and getting the facts straight. Otherwise, in our media-driven culture things can spin out of control pretty quickly and rumors and lies will mount up. In a text message world, word travels fast so you're living a dream if you believe you can hide it or keep a lid on it for long.

2. Call your attorney and get his or her advice.  Especially if it involves minors, or downloading child pornography, not reporting it immediately can be a crime in itself. A good attorney can help guide you through that process and will know which authorities to notify.

3. Scrub the leader from all communications. If your pastor, executive, or leader is a public figure and featured on TV, radio, online, social media, or in fundraising, pull it immediately across all platforms. He or she may eventually be proven innocent, but once the accusations go public, people will use those images and clips to ridicule the organization. So get your web and media team to pull TV spots, programs, websites, or social media platforms that feature that leader.

4. Activate a crisis team. These are key leaders in your organization who understand the situation, can be trusted to deliver the accurate story, and are good on their feet. Get them together, go over the situation and implement your strategy. (You've already developed a crisis strategy just in case, right?)

5. Lead with the facts. Don't hide, embellish, or deflect. It will always come back to haunt you. That doesn't mean you blurt out everything you know, but it does mean whatever you say must be true—according to what you know at the time.

6. Be concerned and sympathetic to all parties.  For instance, in the case of a pastor having an affair, never criticize or demean the woman involved. Particularly at this early date, no one knows everything about the situation, so never come across as harsh or unfeeling towards anyone. You need to express genuine sympathy, assure the public that you're arranging counseling, and are working to resolve the issue.  In the midst of the initial chaos, remember that counseling and dealing with the spiritual and psychological issues are paramount.

7. Don't guess about the cause.  I blogged here about not wasting precious time in the first 24 hours speculating why it happened. The problem happened, so let's deal with it for now. We'll have plenty of time in the future to look back on what caused the problem and make the proper changes for the future.

8. Develop a statement for the press that you've written with the advice of your attorney and media consultant (if you have one). It needs to be clear, express the truth about what happened, and outline the steps you're taking to remedy the situation.

From that point on, you should keep the press informed on a regular basis, work on any counseling for everyone involved, and make the necessary changes in the organization's leadership structure. Remember—the more you hide, the more people will assume you're not telling the whole truth.

While some may think a strategy like this is harsh or insensitive, the scrutiny can be white hot, and without the right response, negative press coverage and word of mouth can destroy an otherwise great church, ministry, or nonprofit.  And that's the primary point here.  You don't want a great work undermined or destroyed because of the innapropriate actions of one person.  Don't act out of fear, anger or retribution, but act, and act now.

My advice is to keep this as a reference for the future. And if you'd like to discuss creating a "crisis plan" for your church, ministry, or nonprofit, please contact us here, and we'll help you navigate this difficult and challenging time.

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media critic and adviser to some of the largest churches, ministries and nonprofit organizations in the world. He's the founder of the Influence Lab.

For the original article, visit read more

  • Discouragement can be a serious struggle.

    Guard Your Spirit Against These 4 Crippling Attacks

    Are you struggling this Valentine's Day with one of these discouraging issues?

  • Worship leaders, keep your team's attitude in check.

    This Can Quickly Erode a Worship Team's Culture

    God has given us talent and He calls for excellence, but excellence with this is not honoring ...

  • A 'What's in it for me?' mentality could bring your church down.

    The Mentality That May Be Killing Your Church

    And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued or declining.

  • Why Many Christians Misunderstand This Crucial Leadership Trait

    Great leadership doesn't start with a great education, although that is incredibly valuable. ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • What reasons can you think of that leaders might not choose to delegate authority?

    7 Reasons Some Leaders Dump Delegation

    These could have a lot to do with stalled growth and low team morale.

  • Your Source of Unlimited Kingdom Energy and Power

    Jesus said that we can do greater works than He did and that He will do whatever we ask in His Name.

  • Don't bring your sermons in for a crash landing.

    4 Terrible Ways to Close a Sermon

    People need an opportunity to respond to the Word of God.

  • These seven responses can get you on the right track.

    Responding Like Jesus When Your Church Kicks You Out

    It's a pain that many in the ministry have felt at least once and maybe more.

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders