Sometimes the church bully or church boss is a board member of the church. I have dealt with these situations, and the question here is how do you confront someone who has authority in the church but is misusing that authority? In this series, we have cataloged the damage that a church bully can perpetuate so we know that it matters. Generally, a church bully is able, through intimidation and bad behavior, to exercise veto power over important decisions in the church and to ensure that they get their way regardless of the will of the majority. This abrogates the will of other leaders and often of the congregation itself. 

Church boards often function in dysfunctional ways, which works to the advantage of a church bully who is on one. So the key factor in dealing with dysfunction on the board itself is to ensure that the board is operating in as healthy a manner as possible. This starts with a board covenant. Never allow a church board to exist without a board covenant that spells out how it will work together. See a sample board covenant in my Blog, Operate without a board covenant at your own risk! 

A key factor in any healthy board is a commitment to candid dialogue where any issue can be put on the table, with the exception of a hidden agenda or personal attack. Church bullies love the fact that board members won't speak up and won't confront. But we always should. I am constantly amazed at the number of issues that boards all know exist but remain unmentioned in their deliberations because it might create friction. So we ignore the obvious and allow the huge elephants to remain in the room unattended to. 

In one church I worked with some years ago, many interviews were conducted in a culture audit. These included staff, deacons, trustees, and people deeply involved in ministry. While many issues surfaced because of poor church leadership, the one outstanding theme was a lack of trust in the senior leader to lead the church forward. All interviewees were key leaders in the church. The board did not want to deal with it, and in this case, the pastor was the bully who intimidated any who got in his way, and I resigned from working with the church. Time will tell if this board will choose to lead in a healthier fashion, but this is a common story. They were complicit in allowing a church bully to hurt many people along the way. Unfortunately, it is a common issue.

In my blog, 15 Things a Church Board should not do, I outline some of the board behaviors that mitigate against a healthy church board. The bottom line is that the healthier a board, the less likely a bully can exist on the board and get his/her way. Healthy boards operate in ways that create clarity, accountability, and group decision-making. No one person can have veto power, and poor behavior is called out. 

In every instance where I have encountered bullies on a board, the board itself was dysfunctional and unhealthy, which is why it was possible for them to have a platform in that venue. So the way to deal with a bully on the board is to bring your board to a healthier place in its practices. My book, High Impact Church Boards can give you a roadmap to that healthy place. 

It takes courage and fortitude to sit on a church board. You must be willing to call out poor behavior and challenge pockets of power that keep others from having a voice. Dysfunctional church boards with a power player on them can be toxic places to serve. Appeal to the reasonable voices on the board to move the board to a healthier place. And don't be shy about getting outside help to strengthen your board health and practices.  

Blogs in this series:

  • Jul 09, 2023
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
Leave a comment