Steve Jones here… Every church has got at least one. Pastors, missionaries, and church leaders get beat up by them. They wreak havoc, cause division, distract churches from mission and cause pastors to resign prematurely. Who am I describing? The “church bully”.
Dr. Thom Rainer, our speaker for our upcoming Fellowship National Conference in Gatineau, QC from November 9-11, 2015, recently wrote of the:
NINE TRAITS OF CHURCH BULLIES
Church bullies typically must have an enemy to feed their insatiable appetite to fight. They are unhappy unless fighting some battle “for the Lord”. Often we find these people in places of influence in the church.
Hopefully by investigating the traits of a “Church Bully”, we can recognize them before they cause dissension and damage:
1. They do not recognize themselves as bullies. To the contrary, they see themselves as necessary heroes sent to save the church from her own self.
2. They have personal and self-serving agendas. They have determined what “their” church should look like. Any person or ministry or program that is contrary to their perceived ideal church must be eliminated.
3. They seek to form power alliances with weak members in the church. They will pester and convince groups, committees and persons to be their allies in their cause. Weaker church staff members and church members will succumb to their forceful personalities.
4. They tend to have intense and emotional personalities. These bullies use the intensity of their personalities to get their way.
5. They are famous for saying “people are saying”. They love to gather tidbits of information and shape it to their own agendas.
6. They find their greatest opportunities in low expectation churches. Many of the church members have an entitlement view of church membership. They seek to get their own needs and preferences fulfilled. They therefore, won’t trouble themselves to confront and deal with church bullies. That leads to the next issue, which is a consequence of this point.
7. They are allowed to bully because church members will not stand up to them. I have spoken with pastors and church staff who have been attacked by church bullies. While the bully brings them great pain, they have even greater hurt because most of the church members stood silent and let it happen.
8. They create chaos and wreak havoc. A church bully always has his next mission. While he or she may take a brief break from one bullying mission to the next, they are not content unless they are exerting the full force of their manipulative behaviour.
9. They often move to other churches after they have done their damage. Whether they are forced out or simply get bored, they will move to other churches with the same bullying mission. Some bullies have wreaked havoc in three or more churches.
NINE WAYS to DEAL with the CHURCH BULLY
Thom Rainer moves from the descriptive to the prescriptive in these following suggestions. What can you do to prevent or stop bullies in YOUR church? :
1. Fight bullying with the power of prayer. The most common targets of church bullies are the pastor and church staff. I encourage everyone in vocational ministry to ask humbly for people to pray for them daily. In two of the churches where I served as pastor, I had as many as 100 or more people committed to pray for me daily. They typically prayed for me for only two or three minutes each day at noon. Their intercessory prayers for me were brief, but they were powerful!
2. Seek to have an Acts 6 group in the church. I am specifically referring to the manner in which the Jerusalem church dealt with murmuring and complaining. They appointed a group to take care of the widows who were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The seven who were appointed to the task were thus not only to do that ministry, but they were also to preserve the unity of the church. Churches need either informal or formal groups that see their ministry as dealing with conflict, complaints and dissension so that unity is preserved.
3. Have a high expectation church. Higher expectation churches tend to be more unified, more Great Commission-focused, more biblically defined and more servant-oriented. Stated simply, high expectation churches don’t offer an environment conducive to bullying.
4. Encourage members to speak and stand up to church bullies. Bullying thrives in a church where the majority remains in silent fear of church bullies. Bullies tend to back down when confronted by strong people in the church. We just need more strong people in the church.
5. Make certain the polity of the church does not become a useful instrument to church bullies. Many churches have ambiguous structures and lines of accountability. Polity is weak and ill-defined. Bullies take advantage of the ambiguity and interpret things according to their nefarious needs.
6. Be willing to exercise church discipline. Church discipline is a forgotten essential of many churches. Bullies need to know there are consequences for their actions, and church discipline may be one of them.
7. Have a healthy process to put the best-qualified persons in positions of leadership in the church. Bullies often are able to push around less qualified people who have found themselves in positions of leadership. There should be a spiritually and strategically designed process to choose and recruit people for key leadership positions.
8. Have a healthy process to hire church staff. For example, an egregious mistake would be the church’s hiring of a senior staff member without the enthusiastic support of the pastor. If the pastor and new staff member do not have good chemistry, a church bully can quickly pit one against the other. A unified church staff is a major roadblock for a church bully.
9. Encourage a celebratory environment in the church. Joyous churches deter bullies. They like somber and divided churches.
Bullies need to be confronted so their “end-runs” won’t harm church leaders in our churches.
I trust Dr. Thom Rainer’s counsel is a support to someone out there today. Remember, Dr. Rainer will be the speaker at our next Fellowship National Conference in Gatineau, Quebec – just across the river from our Nation’s capital, Ottawa.
Hope to see you there!
Have a blessed week,