Nine Traits of Church Bullies

March 30, 2015

Church bullies are common in many churches. They wreak havoc and create dissension. They typically must have an “enemy” in the church, because they aren’t happy unless they are fighting a battle. They tend to maneuver to get an official leadership position in the church, such as chairman of the elders or deacons or treasurer. But they may have bully power without any official position.

Church bullies have always been around. But they seem to be doing their work more furiously today than in recent history. Perhaps this look at nine traits of church bullies can help us recognize them before they do too much 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. See my previous post on this one item.
  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.

Church bullying is epidemic in many of our congregations. They must be stopped. In my article on Wednesday, I deal with the topic of preventing church bullying. In the meantime, let me hear from you.

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  • Dont fit the Bill says on

    Well, I on the other hand was just yelled at and called a bully by my pastor. This was part of a conflict resolution between myself (deacon-chair) and a lady in the church who seems to be favored by the pastor. I read these attributes of a bully and I find myself in 2 but only in the statement not the explanation. I don’t know where to go next? I am heavily involved but I don’t force my way on anyone.

  • Min. Joanne Bias says on

    PTL. I and my granddaughter just recently began attending a holiness church. All seemed well until one of the sisters suddenly wasn’t coming to the services anymore. After several weeks of not seeing her, I asked where the sister was, there was an immediate attack on her. “She was the devil, the enemy…satan took her over, she was full of sin…etc. I am a minister and one evening the sister unexpectantly called me and asked if she could talk to me. I informed her that I do not gossip and whatever answers I give her will come from what The Word says, and after the conversation, suggested that she voice her concerns to the pastor, who is also a woman. {Nothing wrong with that except when there are nothing but women in the church…women tend to be catty…no balance…and so it begins… :-(( }. The demeaning way this sister was put down by both the pastor and her pulpit bully, {the mother of the church}; and the brow-beating, insults, threat and false accusations I experienced myself when I tried to talk with the pastor about it, is the reason why my granddaughter and I are now leaving. I do plan on confronting the Mother and the Pastor before I leave because I feel it is necessary that they know the great harm and damage they are doing. I talked with the sister again, she was very hurt by this, and I didn’t want her to leave the church as a whole. She fortunately found another church to attend and they are now helping her to heal. It’s no wonder that this church is so small. And no men, well, they openly bash them and have no respect for them. I thank you for this article, it was spot-on and its very sad that anyone would have to go through something like this. Its really despicable, unnecessary, and not Christian at all. Sincerely, Min. Bias

  • Debra Scott says on

    This is exactly why I left my church. Although, still confused I did the right thing? I should have confronted the bully b4 leaving…(like Matthew, Scripture says, calling a person out on it, if they don’t agree, take to elders & or Pastors), I’m afraid I didn’t do this, until after I quit, then, learned it from the Bible, Amen. May God forgive me. And Thank you.

    • Min. Joanne Bias says on

      Hello Debra,
      Please don’t blame yourself as some people are not confrontational; this is where prayer is applied. God will handle it and it will be done according to His will. Stay encouraged and I pray that you have found a safe and healthy church to worship and praise the Almighty God who is worthy. Take care. Sincerely, Min. Joanne Bias

  • Just Dealt With One says on

    I have sadly seen this and have seen the people elevated into leadership. Lies, plagiarism, a trail of destruction, and still people close their eyes. Standing up to the bully only made leadership look at me as a problem. If you speak up against a bully, be prepared for the possibility that you may be moving on in your journey. It is sad when it is allowed to continue when it is so blatantly obvious. Great article, thanks for sharing.

    It’s amazing the twisted stories they will come up with. I have also noticed that they may over flatter the person that is coming against them, then try to hit them with some made up accusation. I dealt with someone who rebuked me because ‘hypothetically someone could take something wrong’ . Hypothetical sins, missed that one in scripture.

  • Kay Thomson says on

    Our minister is a bully to two congregants who contribute, musically, to the life of the church. My friend and I are songs leaders. We make a joyful noise by encouraging and singing with the congregation. We have developed a loving musical relationship with the congregation, much to the minister’s disapproval. They do not respond to her as they respond to us. In front of the congregation she is polite to us. We are not fooled by her niceties, so we direct our positivity towards the congregation, because they deserve our attention. We are scheduled to sing once a month and even at that, we have to be prepared for her sense of entitlement to make an appearance. She called me at home to pay us a compliment, only to take it back by cancelling us out of our next sing-song. That meant we did not get to sing with the congregation for two whole months. The list goes on and on. United, we stand, but the atmosphere she creates at church is toxic to us. Our church board has no spine and chooses to wear blinders when it comes to dealing with problems.

  • As a person who has experienced forced religous conversion, I am interested in this. Bullies exist in all areas. It’s a shame when they are tolerated and the issues they present are not addressed in sermons. They may not listen, they may switch churches, but should they be held onto in the first place? In terms of personal happiness and mental wellness, despite having more problems before the conversion attacks, I was happier before this agenda took my personal choice away. And I imagine the same is true for those who actually want to be in church beside other believers.

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