|Traits of Church Bullies…
Bullying behavior in schools is a worldwide problem which cuts across socio-economic, racial/ethnic, and cultural lines. It has negative consequences for the general school climate and affects a student’s ability to learn in a safe environment without fear. Researchers claim that bullying begins as early as preschool and can intensify during the transitional stages of school life. If a child is a victim of bullying, he/she may suffer from lifelong physical and emotional consequences. But bullies are also affected, even into adulthood, and may have difficulty forming positive relationships. Students who engage in bullying behaviors seem to have a need to feel powerful and in control. They appear to derive satisfaction from inflicting suffering on others and tend to have little empathy for their victims. Bullying in schools is a social problem that is coming into the light and being addressed in the school system. But I wonder in the church how well we are addressing the issue of church bullies common in many congregations.
Thom Rainer takes on this issue and says that church bullies are wreaking havoc, stirring up trouble and creating dissention in the church and aren’t happy unless they are fighting a battle. Typically they maneuver their way into an official leadership position in the church, such as the chairperson of the Elders or Deacons or the church treasurer. Bullying in the church is not a new phenomenon; it has been around through church history. But the stories I hear of church bullying seem to be increasing so maybe this issue of church bullies needs to be put in the space and recognized before more relational damage occurs. Rainer identifies nine traits of church bullies:
“1. They do not recognize themselves as bullies. To the contrary, they see themselves as necessary heroes sent to save the church from herself.
2. They have personal and self-serving agendas. They have determined what “their” church should look like. Any person, ministry or program that is contrary to their perceived ideal of the church must be eliminated.
3. They seek to form power alliances with weaker members in the congregation. They will pester and persuade as they seek to convince groups, committees, and individuals to join them as allies in their cause. Weaker staff members and church members will succumb to their forceful personalities.
4. They tend to have intense and emotional personalities. These bullies often use the intensity of their personalities to intimidate others and get their way.
5. They are famous for employing the phrase: “People are saying…” They love to gather tidbits of information and shape it to fit their particular agendas.
6. They find their greatest opportunities in low-expectation churches. Many church members have an “entitlement” view of membership. Instead of seeking to do missions and focus on those outside the body of Christ, they seek to fulfill their own needs and preferences. Therefore, they won’t trouble themselves with confronting and dealing with church bullies. That leads to the next issue, which is a consequence of this point.
7. They are allowed to get away with bullying because other 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 brought them great pain, they experienced even greater hurt because most church members stood silent and allowed this to take place.
8. They create chaos and wreak havoc. A church bully always has his (or her) next mission in mind. While he or she may take a brief break from one bullying cause to the next, such people are not content unless they are exerting the full force of their manipulative behavior.
9. After doing their damage, bullies often move to another church. Whether members finally put their foot down and force them out, or they get bored, bullies will move elsewhere with the same kind of mission in mind. Some bullies have wreaked havoc in three or more churches.”
Church bullying can be a serious obstacle in a church because it gets in the way of being intentional about building a network of relationships, a fellowship which celebrates its gifts and confesses its failures, and where all people and ministries are valued. It can affect a congregation’s ability to be focused on ministries outside their doors because so much energy is consumed with intimidation within the walls of the church. If we are to be a church that is transformed and transforming and living and loving like Jesus, church bullying must be halted.
— Wayne Van Regenmorter
9: Ridley Assessment/Oakbrook, IL
10: Meeting/Trinity College/Palos Heights, IL
11: Coaching; Meeting/Valparaiso, IN
13: Conference Call/Reformed Community Church Consistory/Venice, FL
14: Travel to Mason City, IA for Church Anniversary
15: Preach/125th Anniversary/Zion Reformed Church /Sheffield, IA
17: Meeting/Crown Point, IN; Classis Intervention Team Meeting/Faith Church/Dyer, IN
18: Catalyst Meeting/First Reformed Church/Friesland, WI
20: Conference Call
22: Sunday Worship
Wayne’s contact information:
10088 Prairie Knoll Ct.
St. John, IN 46373
Mobile: (941) 302-1281