“I love you pastor, but I want you fired.”
Several months ago I wrote about bully church members. The post focused on the damage they do and the problems they create. The article resonated with many church leaders.
But some of those leaders told me the article was too little too late. They had already heard something akin to the first sentence above.
The damage was done.
Here is a direct quote of a plea to me: “Thom, I am currently encountering a bully church member. He wants me fired. I didn’t see it coming. How can we be warned about potential bullies before they inflict the most damage?”
I get it. It’s one thing for me to state the obvious: the traits of a bully. But it’s another thing for me to provide early warning signs so you won’t be blindsided. Here are eight of those warning signs:
1. They are among the first in the church to tell you how much they love you. And they will continue to love you as long as you do everything exactly the way they want it done every single day.
2. They have strong personalities. They tend to be boisterous. They speak up frequently in meetings. They can be loud. They like to dominate conversations.
3. They are highly opinionated. And if you ever disagree with them, you become their next target.
4. They are terrible listeners. They want you to listen to them; they don’t want to listen to you.
5. They build unhealthy alliances. The bully in one church built an alliance with two weak staff members. The three of them spoke in secret to the personnel committee about the pastor. The pastor was fired without even being asked his side of the story. Watch carefully those the bully befriends.
6. They murmur and gossip. Most of their words are negative. They are the anti-Barnabas.
7. They do most of their toxic work in darkness. They let other people become the fall persons for their nefarious deeds. They meet with them behind closed doors and then slither away.
8. They have been to several churches. Bullies tend to move around. They do their damage at one church and then leave. They are sometimes asked to leave.
Do all churches have bullies? No. But many churches have bullies. Be careful when you encounter them.
Be very careful.
Let me hear from you.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on July 20, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.