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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260 Comments

  • 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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