View Full Version : Abusive church members
12-11-2004, 08:09 AM
I am just so steamed! The church where I work has been riddled with fighting and hatred for one another for 20+ years. For three years, the denomination didn't even allow them to have their own pastor - wanted them to work out some of their problems before they had another pastor drawn and quartered. They lost over 60 families and went from a 700 attendees church to about 250 - 80% being over the age of 70.
Then, nearly two years ago, they were allowed to get someone who is a big name in the denomination - built the largest church in the denomination in a neighboring state, etc. They brought him here on the pretense of having him lead them "forward" and in turn, they pursued me with the same "vision." Shortly after I came on board, they hired a young man straight out of Bible college to be the youth minister.
The youth ministry had about 6 kids in grades 9-12 when he came and in the first few months grew to about 25 kids. He is a great guy with a deep commitment to welcoming, loving, and caring for students.
Nevertheless, the youth guy and I have both experienced a great deal of abuse - from phone calls, emails, letters, and personal visits where we are yelled at, called names, threatened, etc., to being the subject of hateful gossip. Over the past four months, some folks took it upon themselves to make things absolutely horrible for the youth guy. It all started because several families had keys to the "youth house" and their teenage children were using it inappropriately - having sleep-overs of both girls and guys with no supervison, jumping off the roof, etc. So the youth guy brought this to the attention of the board, the board decided to change the locks and only allow about 3 people keys. They also set rules about the use of the house - hours it could be used and chaperone designations.
The parents of these kids went ballistic. They went to board meetings and screamed and yelled and did all kinds of name calling, but the board stood behind their decision. So, the parents started a campaign against the youth guy. They have spread gossip and lies and been down right hateful to his face as well as behind his back. They and their children have maligned him to the other teens in the community and the youth group has dropped attendance to about 8 kids.
So, this week he announced that he is leaving at the end of the year. They have won. And the senior pastor and the board have just stood by and let this crap happen. Now the senior pastor is telling us that this will mean a huge step backward for the church (I don't think they have even moved forward yet) and I am sure these families will feel empowered by this and will redouble their efforts against me.
What they really don't like about us as staff is that we are "in control." When they had no staff, these people "led" the church - by bullying everyone else and getting their own way. It was while they were in control that the 60 families left. Unfortunately, the board and the senior pastor have absolutely no spine to get in these people's faces and tell them to stop or go somewhere else.
Fortunately, the youth guy was able to get his old job back in his home state and that is why he is able to leave on such short notice. If I had somewhere else to go, I would leave, too. We just really need the money.
I so wanted to be involved in ministry in this church, but we just operate in survival mode all the time. And the senior pastor isn't much of a leader. He makes well over 6 figures, his wife now works for the church, too, and he seems to be sliding into retirement. There's no energy, no motivation, no vision, no support or encouragement. Just a "whatever" to "whatever" happens - literally, that's what he says! I guess I can't accuse him of being over controlling!
Anyway, I'm just so angry and irritated and so not wanting to deal with the fact that once the youth guy is out of the way, I will probably be their next target.
Thanks for listening . . .
12-11-2004, 04:10 PM
They are children of a "Lesser God".But YOUR God,,,,,,,,is God.Sweetie,,,,do not lack your own conviction :D
12-11-2004, 04:43 PM
Hi Florence. You are entering a real nightmare. Please don't stay because of money. It's not worth it. There's work elsewhere for you! I know you and your family need money to survive. Can you look for work while you are still there and move into another job as you leave that one behind?
12-11-2004, 08:19 PM
BOY do I hear you!
Most of the folks on this board know the authoritarian pastor & elders type of abuse. Some of us know the other side of the coin. Some folks in the congregation can get onto some kind of a power trip and be just as hard on the clergy and staff as the authoritarian pastors.
It's been really rough in the church where I work for most of a year now. A small group of folks who were used to running things saw their power slipping away. So they began a campaign to get rid of the pastor. I managed to lay low & avoid taking any direct hits in the situation - but the whole church is still suffering. And the discontent is frequently directed at me.
Praying that things work out for you.
12-17-2004, 05:51 AM
Well, it's been an interesting week since the youth guy announced his resignation to the congregation last Sunday. I saw the people who were so against him slapping one another on the back when the announcement was made. I spoke to a board member who was under the impression that the youth pastor was leaving simply because he felt called away from this church. Apparently that's what has been told to the board. This person had no idea the extent of the abuse toward the youth pastor or that other people on the staff have faced some of the same challenges as the youth pastor from the moment of our hiring. This board member asked why I hadn't been letting them know of my own experiences and I responded that I HAD been telling the senior pastor and the head of the board, but apparently nothing had been conveyed to the rest of the board.
Yesterday, I received an email from someone from outside the church whose daughter works for a second-hand store run by the church - kind of a "Good Will" or "Salvation Army" type of store. The daughter had attended the store's Christmas dinner the Friday before the announcement was made, and she came home and told her parents that during the entire dinner, the people from the church had trash talked the youth guy. One of those people was the church custodian and another has been the youth pastor's lay leader for the senior high group.
I forwarded a portion of that email to the senior pastor and his response was that "Spiritual health in our nation is getting harder to come by." As though this is something to be expected and simply accepted because "everybody's doing it." His response indicated that he was not going to address any of the issues that led to the youth guy's resignation but simply that he hopes that eventually hearts will be changed.
So now I'm beginning to believe that the passive response of the pastor is in itself a type of abuse - because he has been aware of all of the conflicts for the past 14 months and has done absolutely nothing - from not passing the information on to the board to not helping the youth pastor carry out Matthew 18. (The youth pastor has followed the first steps, but no staff member ever meets with the board so the process was never "allowed" to be completed.)
As for me, I am trusting that God is preparing a new place for me and that I won't be here a great deal longer. Please pray that He not tarry.
12-17-2004, 06:23 AM
I am not Suprised,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Matt 24
01-25-2005, 06:54 AM
Hope 98 - How are things going where you work? Can you share more of what's going on?
Sorry this is really long . . . just need to get it off my chest. Thanks for "listening."
The latest news where I am at is that we are losing a second staff member. She's the administrative secretary (she's actually our only secretary). She was offered a job at her own church back around Thanksgiving but turned it down - felt she had made a commitment to this one. Then when the youth guy was run out, she went back and asked if she could still be a candidate for the job at her own church and they were thrilled. I am both ecstatic for her and sad for me - because I would love to have a way out and because she has been a great friend to lean on since she also recognizes how dysfunctional this place is.
Another on-going issue for me at this place is that the senior pastor seems to have a "problem" with me. It started about a month after I began working there (18 months ago). He opened a meeting with me by blowing up at me about how he would never have the leadership skills of the pastor of my church and he seemed to have the idea that I had a tight relationship with my pastor (NOT!) and it was just very apparent that he was suffering from some huge self-esteem issues stemming from the fact that there's a mega-church growing out on the edge of town and he can't compete with that.
Not long after that, he blew up at me again when the keyboardist and I had a meeting with him. Again, over the unfounded belief that I was somehow comparing him to the pastor of my home church (and if you've read my posts about HIM, you know that I do not have a favorable opinion of THAT man - nor he of me!). My home church is also the home church of my accompanist, so she was absolutely stunned at his outburst - and the fact that it was only directed at me rather than at both of us.
Over the months I have taken small jabs from him, but nothing major until recently. (I have NEVER been the one to bring up the topic of my home church - he is always the one who introduces it.) Since the youth guy left, it seems that his attention has turned back to me. He seems to be bashing me by bringing up my home church and the pastor and by picking at little things. For example, I was in the tech booth for about 3 minutes during an evening service a couple of Sunday's back and he lambasted me at the staff meeting the next morning for "distracting" him by whispering to the sound operator. Now, please understand that the tech booth is at least 24 pews from the platform and the tech people never bother to whisper - they actually talk in low voices, so there's no way that my whispering could have been heard up front! The truth is that he was upset that I was even IN the building because I am not involved in that evening service so I am usually never there. He also said that he could hear me talking in my office which is downstairs from the platform with two closed doors between. I think he just knew that I was in the building and it gave him the willies.
He has also been bringing up things he has heard about my church and I am sure it is to see what I know and how I will respond. He has brought up how my church gave a million dollars to a church plant in the next town to the west so they can add to their building. He has brought up how my church has the money to build a youth building on their campus even before the architects plans have been finalized - and wanting to know if I had contributed. I told him that the congregation was not asked to give - the pastor apparently has gotten the funding by approaching some of the multi-millionaires in the congregation. To this he responded that the pastor got his fund-raising abilities from his father who is the best fund-raiser in the denomination - and he said it like the guy was some mafia boss or something. He has also commented on staff-driven models of leadership and I commented that in that set-up it's still vital to bring the lay leaders and the congregation "on board" by "selling" the vision to them. I said, "The pastor or staff leadership designs the engine but they have to get the lay leadership and the people to line their box cars up behind it so they are all going in the same direction. My "boss" responded to that in anger and said, "Well, that's an analogy that _____________(my pastor) uses all the time - get on the train with us or get off and go somewhere else! That's the way _________(my pastor) at ___________(my church) does it and they don't care what the people think!" I was stunned. I have never heard my pastor say anything to that effect - and he has certainly never used that analogy. And while he might believe that if a person can't or won't support the vision of the church they should look for a place where they CAN be supportive, he would never so blatantly suggest to anyone that they should leave. (He's much more subtle than that!) So I told my "boss" (all of these conversations take place at staff meetings which is essentially the only time we talk) that I have never heard my pastor use that analogy or say anything similar and he said, "Well, I have talked to other people from ___________(my church) and they have told me he says it. Maybe it's only been since you came here and you haven't heard it."
Apparently, he isn't aware (thank God) that I do go to my church quite regularly for the late service after I am done working. The really funny part is that I am the one who used that analogy in a Sunday School class I taught last fall in which I talked to the class about the importance of having a vision or focus because that will determine the direction of everything the church does (I have written about this in other posts regarding worship). So, if he heard it from anyone, it would have been someone from my Sunday School class that I was teaching at his church to his people. But then, I suppose he thinks that everything I know I learned from my pastor and am just parroting him.
My accompanist is convinced that I am the threat to my boss because I do know a lot about "church stuff" - from the school of hard knocks, seminary, and life in general. She is convinced that he got his phd because he has self-esteem issues and he can flaunt the initials as a way of saying "See, I'm a smart man." Anyway, I am just so tired of dealing with his immaturity when it comes to me and my church and his assumptions about my relationship with the pastor there.
I am afraid that now that the youth guy is gone, and the secretary has given notice, this will only get worse and I will find myself in another abusive situation with a pastor - only this time it will be my boss. I can deal with the church and it's dysfunction, but the boss . . . please pray that God will hasten His plans for a new place for me.
01-25-2005, 09:11 AM
As for me, I am trusting that God is preparing a new place for me and that I won't be here a great deal longer. Please pray that He not tarry.
Quite frankly, you deserve it. Some do take Sundays off to recuperate and get some perspective. Take it you need it. Jerry and Willow are right about your holding your conviction. I like the branch of Tammy's church, but if it comes anything close to the abusive system of 20 years ago, I and my wife are outta there and not looking back.
Prayers coming your way. :)
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