Creative Leadership

Adultery And The Power of a Glass Door

Over the last year, there’s been a rash of pastors and other Christian leaders stepping down because of moral failings – usually infidelity.  Years ago, I met a pastor in Chicago who was serious about preventing anyone on his staff from engaging in immoral behavior on the job, so he made a brilliant decision – install glass doors in every office in the church. The fact is, there are very few reasons why offices need total privacy.

Years later when we remodeled our office building in Burbank, California, I followed his lead and did the same thing. Now, every door in our building is glass. Anyone walking by can see what’s going on inside.

It’s such a simple and yet obvious idea. After dealing with crisis after crisis among leaders in the church, I’ve discovered that most start right there – on church property. Most leaders aren’t meeting people at random around the city. They’re working closely with someone, gradually developing a relationship, and after awhile one thing leads to another – all behind closed office doors.

If you’re a leader, the cost of switching your office doors isn’t nearly as much as the cost of making the mistake of a lifetime.

Obviously there are many reasons for infidelity. But until we solve everything else, my advice is:

Put in glass doors. Make everything in your office public. You’ll be glad you did.

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  1. We are unable to do that due to the nature of the building, but we did have windows installed in all our doors-not just for the staff but in all classrooms as well.

  2. Along those lines, when I moved into my home office (a small windowless library) I removed the lock on the door.

    That way, even if it the door is closed for a conference call or something, my wife can come in at any time.

  3. When I came to my present church I also had windows installed in each of our staff doors for this very reason. They are vertical windows that maintain some privacy but also protection for the office staff by maintaining, well, an open window to the office outside.

  4. That is one of the best posts I’ve ever read. Simple, effective and saves a ton of heartache in the future.

  5. Beyond the obvious effectiveness, this simple solution sets the leadership tone, influences the thoughts and eliminates a slew of Gremlin situations which could creep in uninvited behind close doors… Brilliantly simple Phil!

  6. Key words in this article are while “on the job”… obviously there’s not you can do to prevent immoral activity off the job, which means the glass doors (walls) are pointless.

    1. Not pointless at all Eric, since as I mention in the post, most cases start on the job. If the relationship doesn’t start, then it doesn’t destroy anyone, and I think that’s worth something.

      1. This is the problem with soo many Christians. It’s believed that if you do this little thing to prevent this one issue, that the problem is solved. If two people are attracted to each other and don’t have a sense of boundaries, a glass office is not going to stop them from taking it further. just as you stated, the cases start on the job… the case has already started before taking it behind closed doors in an office. If the office walls and doors are glass, then it’s off to the next place that it can be carried out at. The problem is MUCH larger than privacy in an office setting. What’s happening is all the trouble to renovate offices at ministries all over the country and the delusion that soo much good has been done and possibly having solved a great problem… when in fact, people are just going elsewhere to carry out their immorality. This article is cute, but a bit (and i repeat) delusional.

        1. I wonder if your approach is the delusional one – at least it’s the bleak one. So let’s not lock our doors, because if someone REALLY wants to rob you, they’ll find a way. Let’s not encourage people to not smoke, because if they REALLY want to, they’ll do it somewhere else. Let’s not mandate wearing safety belts, because if people REALLY don’t want to use them they won’t. I could go on and on…
          Have a little hope in people Eric. I deal with the devastation of this in churches across the country, and I can tell you first hand that little ideas can often make a big difference.

          1. Exactly, I’m glad you’re getting it. It’s time to stop babysitting people and really reach.

          2. Mine is not a delusional point of view… i’m just keeping it as realistic as possible.

  7. This also makes it possible for a male pastor to meet “alone” with and counsel his women parishioners — something too many male pastors are still loathe to do!

  8. If the mission of a pastor is the Gospel there is no reason for closed doors at all. I’ve been wondering when pastors turned into counselors. Why aren’t they referring women to women counselors or female pastors? Sorry, but I think that’s the real problem, not see through doors.

    1. I don’t think it’s an either/or issue. I agree with you on counseling, but it’s not just counseling that gets people into risky circumstances. I say let’s use every idea that helps… 🙂

      1. Maybe but you either are crossing a line or not crossing a line . . .I get in trouble a lot with my black and white thinking. But, as an HR person, I got to love risk management! So, I get your point.

  9. I love this. The glass-door communicates so much intangible, too.

    Something I’ve never seen until recently is highly respected leaders who maintain an open vulnerability of their weaknesses (not just strengths) to their teams…so refreshing to see since the western church has had such an overly-leadership-driven culture as of late.

    1. Thank you for sharing this. I trust many pastors will take it seriously. In the UK you hear of pastors falling into sin and the situation is getting worse. There may be many solutions, but yours is a good one. I have been a pastor for 45 years plus. I and our whole leadership team were not allowed to minister to a member of the opposite sex one on one. Sometimes we were ridiculed for this rule, but in all those years we only had one person who divorced or committed adultery and that with someone outside of the church. It is time the church used the same protection values for vulnerable people and church leaders as they use for children. Thank you again.

  10. I know your goal with the glass offices idea is to prevent the Pastor from starting an inappropriate relationship, but it’s a dangerous idea to present to churches because it’s not dealing with the root of the problem at all. It’s not going to even curb the problem. 50-54% of pastors watch pornography on a regular basis. It starts with pornography and leads to adultery. Pastor Bob Coy from Calvary Chapel who recently admitted to having an affair also admitted he was struggling with porn.

    There’s deep underlying reasons of worthlessness and shame, usually brought on by father wounds, that drive men to watch porn. Will installing glass offices help to curb porn viewing at work? Not at all. I work with Christians who struggle with porn everyday and I can tell you it will do nothing. Most porn viewing is on their phones. When you’re dealing with an addict, he will find access to porn at any cost – a glass office won’t stop him. Glass offices would have done nothing to prevent any of the recent pastors from having an affair. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m close friends with a Pastor of a mega church of 15k who had an affair on his wife. He would tell you a glass door would have done nothing. It’s a matter of the heart.

    The focus should be on the porn epidemic within the Church. Once that issue is dealt with, then we wouldn’t be finding so many pastors stepping out of leadership because they were caught having an affair. 99% of the time it starts with porn and leads to adultery. Porn addicts escalate because enough is never enough.

    While I understand your intentions are good for presenting the idea to install glass doors, however, installing glass doors is just behavior modification. This is what we find most often in modern psychology. What needs to happen is a heart transformation. This is where healing takes place. The more the Church reads about ways of dealing with this problem, without a heart transformation taking place, the more it sinks into the idea that the solution is found within ourselves. This tightens the noose of bondage the Church is facing when it comes to sexual issues. Trying harder doesn’t work. The solution is in God’s grace. This is the door we need to open.

    Before a church spends tens of thousands of dollars installing new glass offices, the money would be better spent on bringing in outside ministries who’s focus is in helping Christian leaders who struggle with sexual issues. This should be done regardless if there’s anyone on the Church staff who’s admitted to struggling or not. The money would be better spent on buying the Conquer Series – a program that walks men through a process to get to the root of bondage: I was the director of the Conquer Series, so I’m not just trying to do a shameless plug. The program is just the start of the process of heart transformation, but it’s an effective way for churches to start the discussion of this issue in their church. We shot a scene about “trying harder” and the glass doors idea would unfortunately fall into that category. Here’s the scene:

    When you lead a man down the path of heart transformation, then it won’t matter if he’s in a sealed vault – his integrity is what happens when the doors are closed and no ones looking.

    1. I have no argument with you Jeremy. No question it’s a complex issue. The glass door idea is just one of many things we need to think about since we live in a world where sexual immorality is just so easy. I do find that the glass doors work for more than sexual issues. They help bust silos since transparency is good in many areas. But thanks for your excellent reminder that it’s a complex issue that needs to be dealt with…

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