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12 Mar '13

Eleven things that discourage pastors and Christian leaders

Board members and congregants and staff seem to find it easy to criticize their pastor or leader. After all he works for them. As a former pastor and one who consults with pastors regularly I would suggest that there are a number of things that bring major discouragement to your pastor. 

1. Bringing a major issue up on Sunday after your pastor has preached. Most non-preachers don't understand how much energy goes into a Sunday message. Unless there is an emergency, Sunday is the wrong day to dump issues on your pastor. So is Monday when  he is recovering from Sunday. For most of us weekends are just regular days. Not so for your pastor.

2. Professional critics. Now I am a firm believer that we ought to be able to talk about any issue but I am most likely to listen carefully to who I know have my best interests in mind. There are people who believe that their spiritual gift is to criticize others, especially pastors. While your pastor may choose to respond graciously it does not mean that he is not hurt deeply by a constant barrage of criticism. 

3. Anonymous letters. I have a rule. If a letter is anonymous I will not read it. If someone does not have the guts to reveal who they are why should I listen to their counsel (actually it is rarely counsel but critical feedback).

4. Passive aggressive individuals. These are those who say one thing to one's face and then do the opposite behind one's back. As I have said previously, this is not only a form of dishonesty but it requires a lot of time and energy when that behavior causes conflict in relationships and in the church. 

5. Passing on information from anonymous sources and refusing to reveal where the information comes from. Comments like "Many people feel this way" without naming who feels that way leaves a pastor in an impossible position. I for one, will not have a conversation with anyone who comes with this kind of information if they are not willing to reveal the source. I cannot evaluate the information without knowing the source and some sources I will discount immediately because they are professional critics.

6. Power brokers. These are people who use power to get their way rather than through the normal channels of leadership. They try to win by intimidation or threats. As a leader I ask them to please  share their issues with my leadership group which immediately causes them to back off. They don't like accountability but want to force their way behind the scenes.

7. Legalists. These are professional pharisees who believe that everyone should see life and Christian practices (most of them are not Christian practices) their way. There is much in the Christian life that is grey and where we are to follow our conscience. Legalists want people to live in their bondage (see Galatians) rather than in the freedom of Jesus.

8. Sharing issues about you with others rather than with you personally. I invite any who have issues with me to talk to me. It is gossip, passive aggressive behavior, destructive and cowardly to talk to others about a leader when they have not talked to the leader themselves. It also is unbiblical (see Matthew 18).

9. Staff who go around them to complain to board members. This is not only bad governance but it hurts the ability of a leader to lead. Furthermore, the board member gets only one side of the story. If a staff member feels that there is a moral issue at stake he or she should ask for a meeting with the pastor and the church chair so there can be a real conversation without violating the chain of supervision.

10. Those who want their church to look like the church they left. Here is an irony. Many people leave a church unhappy but their version of church is the one they left. Every church is unique. Your present church will never be your former church, for better or for worse. Suggestions are great when make in the right spirit. Your pastor does not pastor your former church but your current church.

11. Church leaders who don't keep confidences. What is said in a board room belongs there and no where else. Those who violate board procedures and agreements kill trust for the rest of the board.