Twenty Five Silly Things Church Members Fight Over

It began as an innocuous Twitter survey. But then it blew up.

A lot of church members and leaders were eager to share about fights, schisms, and conflicts in their congregations. They were likewise eager to point out the absurdity of these issues. There were the ones we’ve heard often: temperature in the worship center, color of carpet, order of worship, and color of walls.

The fights shown below, however, are a bit unusual. Indeed, most of them are downright absurd. I picked 25 of my “favorites.” They are listed in no particular order. The parenthetical commentary is my own.

  1. Argument over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard (I think I saw a verse in Scripture that indicated it is to be no more than 1.5 inches longer than the pastor’s beard.).
  2. Fight over whether or not to build a children’s playground or to use the land for a cemetery (I’m dying to know the resolution of this one.).
  3. A deacon accusing another deacon of sending an anonymous letter, and deciding to settle the matter in the parking lot (The church could have sold tickets to this event and raised a lot of money.).
  4. A church dispute of whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women’s restroom (I’m calling unfair on this one. The men should have their stall dividers too.).
  5. A church argument and vote to decide if a clock in the worship center should be removed (I think this one is a timely argument.).
  6. A 45-minute heated argument over the type of filing cabinet to purchase: black or brown; 2, 3, or 4 drawers (This one is an official cabinet meeting of the church leadership.).
  7. A fight over which picture of Jesus to put in the foyer (I just want to know who took the pictures.).
  8. A petition to have all church staff clean shaven (No church planters are allowed.).
  9. A dispute over whether the worship leader should have his shoes on during the service (I vote for shoes, shirts, and pants.).
  10. A big church argument over the discovery that the church budget was off $0.10. Someone finally gave a dime to settle the issue (I have to admit this issue is ten times more important than the church missing a penny.).
  11. A dispute in the church because the Lord’s Supper had cran/grape juice instead of grape juice (Of course it should be grape juice. It’s right there in Hezekiah 4:11.).
  12. Business meeting arguments about whether the church should purchase a weed eater or not. It took two business meetings to resolve (Wow. This fight was really whacky.).
  13. Arguments over what type of green beans the church should serve (I could have resolved this conflict quickly: none.).
  14. Two different churches reported fights over the type of coffee. In one of the churches, they moved from Folgers to a stronger Starbucks brand. In the other church, they simply moved to a stronger blend. Members left the church in the latter example (Perhaps they started a new church: The Right Blend Fellowship.).
  15. Major conflict when the youth borrowed a crockpot that had not been used for years (I bet it was a bunch of crocky old adults.).
  16. An argument on whether the church should allow deviled eggs at the church meal (Only if it’s balanced with angel food cake for dessert).
  17. An argument over who has the authority to buy postage stamps for the church (The members were licking their wounds over this issue.).
  18. A disagreement over using the term “potluck” instead of “pot blessing” (I get it! The concept of luck contradicts the theology of a sovereign God. This issue is very serious. Good luck trying to resolve it. ).
  19. A church member was chastised because she brought vanilla syrup to the coffee server. It looked too much like liquor. (Beth Moore confessed she was the culprit who brought the syrup. Don’t you know, Beth, we Baptists cannot have vanilla syrup at anytime? Chocolate is fine though.).
  20. An argument in church over who has access to the copy machine (I think a calendar should be made where every church member has at least five minutes access to the copy machine each year. You can have a business meeting to vote on each five-minute increment.).
  21. Some church members left the church because one church member hid the vacuum cleaner from them. It resulted in a major fight and split (Thus the Second Electrolux Church was born.).
  22. An argument over whether to have gluten-free communion bread or not (I thought gluteny was a sin.).
  23. A dispute over whether the church should allow people to wear black t-shirts, since black is the color of the devil (Are you sure he’s not red? That’s what I’ve heard.)
  24. A fight over whether or not to sing “Happy Birthday” each week (I’ve got an idea. Alternate it with the doxology.).
  25. An argument over whether the fake, dusty plants should be removed from the podium (Just give them a little water. They should be fine.).

Yes. These issues are silly; many are absurd. But they are all distractions from what we should be doing in our churches. In that sense, they are really great distractions from the Great Commission.

Let me hear your stories!

Posted on November 11, 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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  • I was “taken to the woodshed” by the treasurer of a church I pastored because of a long distance phone-call made from the office phone (on legit church business). She slammed the the bill down onto the table at a board meeting and demanded to know who to charge for it. The total amount of the bill was 11 cents.

  • Mark Dance says on

    That was fresh and funny…except for the coffee. I’d die on that hill – ha.

  • James Lambert says on

    sorry, I have the saddest:
    Church fight over taking the Christmas decorations out of the baptistry.

    • You mean, they didn’t celebrate Christmas the way they did in the New Testament?

      • Some members left because we sing too many choruses in a language which is not theirs! I we only sang their language, otherwise would leave because none of the choruses in their language is sung!

  • These lists are heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time. I have been there. I know every pastor has. How many sleepless nights have pastors had because of pointless complaints like these.

    • Many pastors are deeply caring people by nature, but a minister losing (much) sleep over such trivial matters may say as much about the (shallow) depth of their faith as it does about the (im)maturity of those quarreling.

  • A pastor friend reported that deacons at his church once had a 3 hour discussion on what brand of toilet paper to purchase for the restrooms.

  • A friend reported sitting through a 45 minute argument at a women’s group meeting over whether dinner rolls for an upcoming church supper ought to be sliced horizontally or vertically. (At one point, trying to bring this to an end, she asked who was bringing the dinner rolls and whether we might not be able to trust that person to make this decision. Apparently no, we cannot trust this person to make the decision.)

  • On #11, if you think it’s funny to mock the proper approach to the Lord’s Supper you have a problem.
    The moment people begin to minimize the elements of worship and their meaning – saltines for unleavened bread, grape kool-aid for fruit of the vine. One cannot properly or respectfully teach the true meaning of communion through substandard elements, in my opinion. <

    • So, partaking of grape juice should be out as well, right? Since they used actual wine in Jesus day.

    • So can saved minors partake of the wine then?

      • Different Protestant denominations regard communion differently concerning wine versus grape juice. I do believe there is a much stronger biblical and historical case for serving wine, not grape juice. Our church would always serve both, encouraging the wine, but offering the juice for those whose consciences weren’t on board or who might have made a vow to abstain after a time of drunkenness during youth. We are supposed to remember the last supper through the ceremony, not cater to our personal taste buds. It was unleveaned bread and wine. Sorry, it just was. And minors drank the wine, too! …there was no american government. Honestly, if you’re arguing over grape versus cran grape, though, in my.opinion you already lost, because neither is accurate. At least argue over juice versus wine. As far as the gluten argument for bread, though…not as pertinent as the grape juice thing, but truly, in my church, there is a lady with serious Celiac who can’t partake of communion. Gluten was in israli bread, but it didn’t have american contaminants, so perhaps a resolve could have been to offer both. But no one thinks of how to serve others anymore. Everyone is holier than thou.

    • #26: The reader of a light-hearted blog about trivial church disputes gets his panties in a wad because he fails to see the humor in absurd trivialities.

      • Marie Stewart says on

        It is a matter of the condition of your heart!!! The sacrament is symbolic: Jesus would never refuse the best that one can do to honor this sacrament to HIM! HE looks beyond the physical lack of stuff!!! A pure heart and spirit HE ACCEPTS!! I CAN ONLY IMAGINE THAT SOME OF OUR MISSIONARIES IN DEEP DARK UNCIVILIZED AREAS WILL NOT have the advantage of real wine and unleavened bread!!!! It would be totally out of HIS CHARACTER TO REFUSE the “best”( whatever bread and drink) that one can offer, when offered with a pure heart and spirit!! and the words “do this in remembrance of me”. !!!! Marie

    • It’s about your heart, not about what you’re drinking. If you’re hung up on serving the “right” thing to the “right” people at the “right” time, now you’re adding your own rules and have crossed the line into religion instead of relationship. If your intent is to worship then get after it, whether that means serving wine, grape koolaid, or banana daiquiris.

    • One time I was asked to pick up some grape juice for the Lord’s Supper. I later got in trouble because the grape juice I bought was “from concentrate”, instead of pure grape juice.

      NEWS FLASH: The juice / wine is intended to represent the blood of Jesus. The symbolism comes from the COLOR, not the substance. Jesus used wine because (1) He was using the elements of the Passover meal, and that was probably the beverage at hand, and (2) since they didn’t have any means of refrigeration in those days, grape juice inevitably fermented into wine.

      My point? Cranberry juice would probably work just as well – or even better – than grape juice in symbolizing Christ’s blood. For that matter, I think the Lord would forgive you for using plain water in communion, if that’s all you have on hand. Don’t get so hung up on the elements that you forget what they symbolize. As for our church, we’ll probably stick with grape juice. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, the wisdom of our ancestors is in the tradition, and these unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the country’s done for.

    • Seriously? Saltines ARE unleavened bread. But the Bible doesn’t demand unleavened anyway. I mean I don’t opt for lifesavers and coke, but … seriously?

      • um, 1)aren’t the elements REPRESENTATIONS? So as long as we specify what they represent, the element itself has neither power nor significance, because
        2) the significance comes through the act of consecration. Again, you can consecrate potato chips and soda pop — it’s consecrating them to the Lord and Remembering His sacrifice that’s important, not the item that gets used as a standin….

  • Replacing the pew cushions. Amount of padding. Color of the cover.

    Changing the order of worship even slightly. Replacing a song with a bible reading upset everyone.

    Singing verses 1-3 (heretical) of a 4 verse hymn rather than 1,2&4 or all 4. The number of verses was dependent on how much the song leader smoked and was proportional to how much air he had in his lungs.

    Smoking outside the church house after Sunday school and before the service. Men could. Women didn’t.

    Where the pastor stood after church to shake hand with people like a politician.

    • A 20 minute ‘discussion’ over whether or not it would be ok if I, the pastor, didn’t take the church garbage out each week. It was assumed I would. I left this church shortly after this one. Had already endured pew cushions, putting a memorial plaque on a pew where a favorite grandmother had sat, disenfranchising a group from voting, and whether or not to replace the boiler in the parsonage when it quit working and threw off sparks each time it was restarted. Oh the joys of church ‘discussions/decisions.’ And the churches wonder why they are declining????

  • 3 hour business meeting about whether or not we should buy a new vacuum cleaner. Decision was a tight one but the vote was to get the new one.

    I left when the motion was made that only certain people be allowed to use it since it was a new vacuum.

    Honestly, that actually happened.

  • Item #2 (I did not experience this but read about it): A church almost split over whether or not the whipped topping in a woman’s dessert at a gathering was from scratch or was Cool Whip.

  • While it wasn’t a divisive issue, at my first ever Council meeting we opened by having an hour and fifteen minute discussion over what kind of a coat rack to put in our newly built church. I went home wondering what I had gotten myself into.

  • Several years ago our middle daughter asked me to grow a “duck dynasty” beard before she left home for her first year of college some 5 hours away from where we live. I had NEVER grown a beard, and quite frankly, didn’t think I could grow one. But, to honor her request, I told her I wouldn’t shave until she left for college in a couple of months. Low and behold, I grew a pretty fantastic “bushy” beard. One Sunday morning, a church member stopped me before the service began and asked me, “Do we need to give you a raise so you can buy a razor?” She wasn’t joking…about the razor part, that is. I wish I would have told her; “I have a razor, but I don’t mind if you give me that raise.” The last Sunday before my daughter left, I wore blue jeans, a white sport jacket and an American flag bandanna. Willy would have been proud of me! (I did take the bandanna off before I actually began leading our worship service).

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