Whether you're the leader of a church or you're interested in one, pastoral dating isn't exactly the same as having a relationship with a non-ministry member. As the spiritual head of a church, the pastor has to not only uphold the religious institution's moral values but also set an example for the parishioners. Following the rules of etiquette can help the dating pastor -- or the person who is dating the pastor -- to date in an appropriate way that aligns with the church's teachings.
Talk About Getting Intimate
If you're a pastor, it's likely that you have accepted that abstinence until marriage is a part of your life. Even though this is part of your belief system, it doesn't necessarily mean that everyone you date has the same idea. Part of pastoral dating etiquette includes when to tell your date that he has to wait. While there's no set-in-stone time to tell, doing it early can help both you and your potential partner decide whether a lack of physical intimacy is acceptable or not. For example, pastor Wren Miller tells "Marie Claire" magazine that she tries to wait to tell potential suitors, as they may not want to stay and get to know her if there's no possibility of intimacy before marriage.
Accepting Intimacy Issues
The flip side of a pastor telling a date about his abstinence beliefs is the date accepting it. The decision to accept waiting until marriage to get physical is a personal one. There's no precise rule governing whether to wait along with the pastor or move on. Daters may look to their own belief systems, morals and values when choosing whether to stick with the pastor or not. Some people simply don't feel comfortable with this decision, and choose to leave before anything serious gets started.
If you think that you feel a certain chemistry with your pastor and want to pursue a relationship, keep in mind that, while in some cases this is acceptable, many churches specifically prohibit pastor-parishioner relationships. For example, your church's ethical guidelines for the pastor's service may say that romantic and physical relationships with church members are not allowed. If there's a no dating rule at your church, you'll need to accept it and look for love elsewhere.
Pastors don't just have a commitment to their religion, they also have a commitment to their congregation. This means that when dating a pastor you'll have to take a backseat to church-related issues and activities. For example, you have plans to spend the evening with your pastor boyfriend. But, one of his parishioners calls and is in need of immediate counseling. Your boyfriend will need to go to the parishioner and take a rain check on your evening out. Pastors need to make this relationship issue clear from the start and significant others need to accept this.