The Church Bully

I just came across an insightful post from Thom Rainer. In his post, Rainer lists nine common characteristics of what he labels “church bullies”. Read through the points below. Have you ever had to deal with a church bully? Have you ever been a part of a church that had a bully? What was done or what should have been done?

Here is Rainer’s list:

  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 behavior.
  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.

If you want to look at the original post, it is here.

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5 Responses to The Church Bully

  1. Andy says:

    Well said, I spend such a lot of my ministry time trying to undo the damage bullies do. Bless u.

  2. Tim Farley says:

    Thanks for the comment, Andy. Are you in pastoral ministry? I wonder how often pastors leave their ministries as a result of bullying. I would guess that driving away pastors and other church leaders is a large part of the damage bullies do.

  3. Ama Nazra says:

    Not just in churches .. I am no longer an active part of our small town Progress Association (though I am still a member) because of two people’s actions, each as described above. Even though they didn’t like each other, they worked together to destroy the Executive Team, which included me. In the end I was the last man (lady) standing, until a new team took over .. and the association is no longer progressing, they are barely holding it together. That’s a fact, its painful to watch – and my reputation has been smeared across the pavement). We were the first team, in many years, who took joy in volunteering to make this town more beautiful, more workable, and getting the local council to remember the town exists .. and I am still breaking my heart over it.

    One thing you didn’t mention was charisma .. everyone ‘liked’ the main bully, to begin with, until he dropped his mask with many of them individually .. then they would rather just run away than get involved, not that I blame them, given what happened to the rest of us.

    Bullies are everywhere. In this case I think it was jealousy, narcissistic personalities, and a strong desire to be noticed and admired.

  4. Tim Farley says:

    Thanks for your comment, Ama. You make a great observation. This issue of bullying is not unique to the church. I suspect it can happen anywhere and probably happens more often in smaller groups (e.g. small churches, small towns, etc.). But the place where we should least expect to find bullies is the church, where we are called to lay down our lives for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    You are also right that often times the bully can be well-liked, at least for a time. They are usually very friendly to everyone not in their sights. That is how they build their allies.

    Thanks again!

  5. Ranita says:

    How insightful. We don’t expect this in the church setting; but the Apostle Paul found it to be true, and it does continue to be true today. I think it might be important to make sure that each one examine him/herself to make sure one is not a bully or being influenced by a bully.

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