The pastoral-church relationship is one of the most sacred, and if a pastor betrays that position with an individual or the entire church, it can be very damaging.  Actually, when a pastor betrays his position with lies, cover ups, and outrageous behavior, he is betraying the entire church - even if the church looks the other way.  I think that the Rev. Dr. Tracey Dawson (2015) sums it up best as she states:

A Sacred Trust
Ministry practice is a sacred trust. Congregants and counselees seek out the experience of the divine as a pathway for healing, whether the brokenness is of the spirit or of the flesh, or whether it has its roots in the cruelest experiences of life. When a person enters a church or a church-related environment and seeks direct help from and relationship with a pastor, in a very visceral way, God has been called into the conversation, too, and for some of the most broken persons, the minister’s words and God’s words become one and the same.
And so it is a sacred trust that is being placed in a pastor who counsels, and in a pastor who preaches, and in a pastor who leads a congregation of people seeking to understand God’s will for their lives, who want to worship to the glory of God, and who want to please their pastor so as to also please their God. Religious bodies have a tendency to make icons of their leaders, to set them on a pillar and turn them into gods.
(Legal Document).

Below is a list of boundaries that a pastor should keep, both as a minister from the pulpit, and as a pastor who counsels.

1.  A pastor cannot divulge who he is counseling to anyone - not even his superiors or family members.  The nature of and the name of his counselees is to be kept confidential.

2.  A pastor must acknowledge their own limits of knowledge and ability in their counseling and refer the counselee to a trained professional.

3.  If a pastor claims to have professional training, it is their duty to continue their training through classes, seminars, etc.  A failure to do so is a violation of boundaries.

4.  Unless there is an emergency, pastor -church member counselee should not have communication outside the area of regular church functions, and the decided upon boundary of the place, time, and limit for counseling sessions.

5.  “A minister cannot engage in long-term pastoral counseling unless he has been trained in pastoral counseling, is receiving appropriate supervision, and has clearly negotiated a treatment plan with a care-seeker that includes long-term pastoral counseling.  Pastoral caregivers must not provide care beyond their limits of expertise.” (Doehring, p. 61)

6.    "Record-keeping and privacy

4.36 If you are engaged in individual pastoral ministry, consider keeping a factual

record of your daily pastoral activity.  Record details such as the date, time, place, participants, subject, and any proposed action arising from each activity.  Record personal remarks accurately.

4.37 You need to know the relevant principles of the applicable privacy legislation in relation to the collection, use, disclosure and management of personal information.  These have implications for:

  • the publication of personal information in church directories, newsletters, rosters and websites;

  • the recording and publication of voices and images of individuals; and

  • the use and security of all personal information, and especially sensitive information, held by clergy and church workers or in church offices" (Safe Ministry, 2017)




Dawson, T. (2015).  Legal Document.

Doehring, C. (2006). The practice of pastoral care. (1st ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Safe Ministry, (2017) 4. Pastoral Relationships . Retrieved 27 Sep 2017, from:                     pastoral-relationships/.

Next Page.jpg