After feeling convicted about not having any un-churched friends, I quit my church softball team and joined a co-ed city league. I didn’t know that the local Hooters restaurant had a team in the league.
As I was warming up before a game, I kept noticing Hooters’ girls arrive in their typical service uniforms (from what I’ve been told). I did think it strange that they were wearing stirrups, though. That’s when my teammate said excitedly, “We’re playing the Hooters’ girls!”
My mind raced. Do I feign an injury? Do I call my wife now, as to avoid a problem later? (I’ve posted previously on problem-avoidance.) Then I wondered, “How many church members are going to see me fraternizing with the competition? What will they think? Could I lose my job over this?”
As I walked to the plate for my turn at bat, everything in me said I should strike out and head back to the dugout with no Hooters’ employee interaction. But pride got the best of me, and I mustered a hit that got me to the first base. While standing there, the first base-woman began playing 20 questions with me.
I remember thinking – just keep your eyes on her cleats, and you won’t get in trouble.
Similar to many professions, ministers are faced with the challenges of perception, judgment, and image management. Some of it fair, some of it not.
Some practical takeaways about dealing with perceptions of church-members, and anyone else watching:
- Get used to being watched. Really, get comfortable with it.
- Besides other people’s expectations of you, God has also clearly said that he has high expectations for those who lead his church (James 3:1 and Titus 1:7-9).
- Be above reproach.
- Don’t shy away from being around non-Christians just because you might be judged. Jesus did it. But also…
- Remember, you’re not Jesus. So don’t let your presence with non-Christians lead to practices of non-Christians.
- Don’t pretend to be someone in public who you’re not in private — you should be consistent.
- Don’t be afraid to show flaws to others, but don’t perpetuate or celebrate consistent wrong living.
- Don’t host staff lunches at Hooters. Not even for their wings.
- You probably shouldn’t go Hooters at all (see #6).
- If your softball team ever does play a Hooters’ team, trust me, strike out (marriage tip).
Hooters’ eating is likely not a sin—but you’re an example, find wings elsewhere or order out.
As a minister, you can complain that you live in a glass house, or you can own it as the platform that God has set you on for a reason, and set a worthy example for those watching.