Nine Traits of Church Bullies

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.
  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 an epidemic in many of our congregations. The bullies must be stopped.

Posted on March 30, 2015


With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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283 Comments

  • We need to ask ourselves why Jesus has not done a single thing to stop the bullies. Jesus gets the prayers and cries for help and guidance but continues to ignore them while counting the tax free cash. The bullying, dehumanization, and scamming have gone on for far too long.

    The existence of the Christian religion must be re-examined, what is really taught? It clearly is NOT love and grace. No more excuses. No more stating biblical versus to sweep the problem under the rug. Hold the top accountable!

    I can’t be the only person who has noticed.

  • Kristin Martin says on

    Can you please help me. I don’t understand why, but every page I click on Facebook and Google is a religious page, there is no way this is coincidence….. I don’t understand. I love God and Jesus but I can’t stand religion…..it bullies and separates and ever since I was accepted into the MercyCare health program in Arizona is when it seemed to start. The best way I can describe it is it feels like I’m in an internet “bubble” and all my searches….everything….. brings up biblical and family first sites ….especially on Facebook. I don’t understand, its been so incredibly stressful and confusing.

  • REV BEDIAKU ABRAHAM says on

    it is a good and relevant teaching for serious church workers.Bullies ought to be stopped.

  • As a lifelong career missionary, I’ve seen church bullies who were pastors, or elders, or chairmen of the Board. Also “well-intentioned dragons” among lay people who inflict a lot of damage. They rely on forceful personalities and their giftedness to exert dominance and control. For those who’ve been hurt, there’s a wonderful ministry called Bethesda By The Sea. It’s on the Panhandle of Florida. They have helped a lot of people in full-time Christian service to find healing and regain their joy.

  • Very accurate description. One of the big keys to their “success” is point number 7. Many church members think the only way to have peace in the church is to let the bullies have their way. The membership doesn’t realize this only empowers and encourages the bullies to continue their destructive behavior.

  • Pastors can be the worst narcissistic bullies of all.

  • My husband and I tuned into watch the live online service and to our surprise we heard the “pastor” speaking the first 3 min of the sermon about me! We happen to live in his development and He was upset because HE has been breaking our HOA covenants and he had received a letter about it and instead of taking responsibility for it he was BLAMING me and calling me names that will forever cause damage. He did not have any of his facts correct and now has caused great division in our neighborhood as well as put our safely and security at risk! How is he allowed to get away with not just bullying but cyber bullying? Is no one held accountable?

    • Please reach out to me. Info at reformationcharlotte dot org

    • Kristin Martin says on

      I don’t think so Kat, I’ve been reaching out for help for 7 years and I keep getting referred somewhere else or flat out ignored. Sending good and healing thoughts your way. ❤

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