Their primary duty is that of guiding the spiritual and religious aspects of the lives of their community members. They should give the highest priority to their duties towards the community including church service, counseling and other ceremonial functions required by their profession. As part of their professional and ethical duties, pastors are also required to show an interest in community development and increase their participation in community activities. This has become a necessity in modern culture because people expect institutions to take an interest and an active role in the community development efforts. Institutions cannot expect to benefit from the resources of the society and not give back. This is why business organizations, universities and even political parties make community development a part of their organization's commitment to the society and the people they serve. Religious institutions like the church are also expected to follow this example. The pastor, as leader of the church and the community has to take a leading role in the community development efforts.
Ethical Conduct in Public Life
The pastor has to take an active role in upholding the moral values of society by identifying and discussing issues which endanger the social and moral fabric. The pastor should sensitize people to such issues and encourage them to take steps towards eradicating moral problems from society. Under such circumstances, the pastors should not incite people to take the law into their own hands and should not do any such thing themselves. Professional ethics does not allow the pastor to encourage vigilantism or disrespecting the law of the state to achieve any end. This has become important in current times because people in general have become reactionary and have taken to bypassing the state laws to protect what they perceive as moral and ethical values. The murders of doctors who perform abortions by vigilantes are an example of the social problems that can arise when pastors and other church leaders fail to exercise their ethical duties. This ethical duty can be extended to avoiding becoming involved in political issues and practical politics at any times. They should not undertake any political activity that would create divisions in the community and prevent peaceful relations among the people. If the pastor finds that he or she has to take part in political activities of any sort, they should make it a point to strictly avoid any activity that causes them to become involved in illegal or unethical activities. Upholding this duty is extremely important because pastors have to demonstrate an upright and morally high character so that they may continue to inspire the trust and confidence of the members of their community.
For historical reasons, people involved in politics do not convey such impressions to the public because it is common knowledge that corporate interest and monetary concerns can and usually do influence the decisions people make. Pastors involved in political activities should strive to avoid becoming tainted by any such negative impressions about their character or their activities.
The Cause of the Church and its Administration
Despite being inclusive and accommodating of all people, the pastor should also be dedicated to his or her religious cause and uphold the interests and values of the faith community as required by the tenets or doctrine of the church that they serve. They should acknowledge the respect and well-being that the church and the community has caused them to enjoy and should strive for the progress of their denomination and its religious mission. They should undertake their best efforts to promote the ideology of their denomination and take the message out to the people by attracting them towards the church.
An associate or assistant to a senior pastor is under an ethical duty to respect and obey the instructions and jurisdiction of the pastor. In their eagerness to progress in the church, they should not undermine the authority of the pastor and that of other assistants who share the same position as they. They should strive to their best at serving and following the interests of the pastor of the church. If they feel that they are unable to perform their ethical duties, they should seek to dissociate themselves from the service instead of continuing in their profession without any conviction or commitment. Heward-Mills (2011, p. 434) suggests, "Let your associates be aware that in as much as they are important to you, they are not indispensable."
They should also be respectful to other church officials and ministers taking care not to undermine their authority or expertise. They should also exercise sound judgment in their personal and social lives so that their personal activities do not reflect poorly on their professional image. This might endanger their prospects for career progress in the church and they might even have to leave the profession if a gross misconduct has been reported.
In the current times, means of communication have advanced to a level where individuals may not even know when they are being monitored and their activities exposed to the public. Interactive communication and data capture technologies make it simple for someone to take a photograph and disseminate it to a large number of people. The proliferation of social networking websites in recent years means that people can share information with thousands of people within a few seconds. This can create controversy for the people involved, especially when the people belong to a highly respected profession such as the church. Therefore, pastors should be careful even in their personal lives and should display high ethical standards in their personal conduct. This requirement is even more necessary when the young pastor is involved with someone from the same religious community served by the pastor as it could raise questions about whether professional influence was used to influence the other person.
The pastor is a spiritual guide for the community. In addition, he or she is also required to provide counseling services to the community members and help them resolve their ethical dilemmas and spiritual conflicts. However, no person is equally capable in all areas and it may be equally possible that the pastor himself might need counseling and advice to solve their problems. It is the ethical duty of all pastors to have their own counselor in the church that can help them solve their problems. The pastors should not try to solve a problem for which they feel that they are poorly equipped to solve. Such problems may be problems relating to their own self or problems brought to them by their community members. When a person from the community comes to them with a problem that they feel they do not fully understand or do not possess the mental capacity or resources to help out the person, they should avoid trying to propose help to the person. Such an act would not be in the best interests of the community and should hence be avoided. As stated by Wiest & Smith (1990, p. 71), "Professional self-understanding includes idealistic self-components…and yet is always accompanied by the awareness that no person can altogether surmount individual limitations."
In such a case, the pastor is under an ethical duty to consult a senior pastor for advice. In an alternative case, the pastor may refer the person to an expert who might offer better help at solving the matter.
The pastors are under a strict ethical duty not to exploit clients who discuss their problems with them, either financially or sexually. Clients impose a high level of trust in the pastor and expect their matters and problems to be handled with privacy and confidentiality. Pastors are under an ethical duty to respect these standards and demonstrate high levels of confidentiality and privacy when discussing matters with their clients. They should avoid holding discussions in the presence of a third person or insisting that children or teenagers bring their parents along to discuss their problems. The pastors should be accepting of all those who come to them for counsel. They should not use their personal standards or preferences to judge a counselee or when offering counsel. They should treat all persons fairly and should listen to all their problems objectively and dispassionately.
If the pastors feel that they cannot offer the best counsel in a given case, they should immediately refer the counselee to the best person in their opinion who has an expertise in the area. They should not try to offer an advice in matters that they are not well-versed with. Instead of trying to appear competent, pastors should work for the best interests of their community members by allowing them access to the best counsel and advice. To achieve this end, the pastors should establish links with such experts in the community including psychological therapists, psychiatrists, marriage counselors, lawyers and so on. They should also not consider personal friendships and obligations when recommending one among several therapists or professionals. The foremost obligation is to…