Evangelical churches are full of pastors serving faithfully. Most pastors serve sacrificially with integrity. But we also know or have read about pastors who have failed to reflect biblical standards.

Seasons of pastoral transition present unique opportunities to ensure that pastors are equipped to live and serve well. Tools like the Code of Ethics for Pastors, developed by the National Association of Evangelicals, can provide a foundation for success. Developed in 2012, the code has become a helpful resource for thousands of pastors who have committed to live by its standards.

In seasons of pastoral transition, the Code of Ethics for Pastors can be used in a number of ways:

  1. Reference the code when developing position descriptions and in identifying pastors of good character.
  2. Use the code to help your pastoral search committee draft interview questions.
  3. Ask your candidates if they could sign the code, and require existing pastoral staff to sign it.
  4. Make the code a part of the yearly review process for your pastors.
  5. When bringing on new leadership, take the opportunity for your church and leadership team to review and recommit to the Code of Ethics for Pastors and the parallel Code of Ethics for Congregations.
  6. Share the Code of Ethics for Pastors with the congregation during the transition process, so they can pray specifically for the incoming pastor.

One of the surprising and interesting reports the NAE team has often heard is about pastors, churches, organizations and denominations that have no code of ethics. The time they are needed is before they are needed.

John Crosby, retired senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minnesota, was an original signatory of the Code of Ethics for Pastors and echoes the importance of an ethical code: “One of the reasons I enthusiastically support the NAE Code of Ethics for Pastors is the signal it sends to clergy and congregation alike, that these issues are central to following Jesus and loving his people. Before the headlines sensationalize, NAE has called for the health of pastors and protection of all encountering the Church of Christ.”


The NAE Code of Ethics for Pastors can be viewed and downloaded at NAE.net/pastorscode. The parallel NAE Code of Ethics for Congregations is available at NAE.net/churchcode.

This article originally appeared in Evangelicals magazine.

Heather Gonzales
Heather Gonzales, NAE vice president and COO, has served the NAE since 2005, most recently as association director. She was previously employed by IRI, an international democracy promotion organization, and she has served with Africa Inland Mission in Namibia and worked in several congressional offices. She holds degrees in history and business management from Huntington College and a masters of liberal studies from Georgetown University.