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15 ways lead pastors can drive their staff nuts

Unsplash/ Julien L
Unsplash/ Julien L

Lead pastors can have two personas. The congregation knows one. The church staff knows the other.  While the goal is to be the same person around everyone, it does not always occur.

Most lead pastors will act differently around the staff they work with for hours each day compared to other congregants they may see in passing once or twice a week. This dichotomy is not necessarily bad. But things go sideways when the lead pastor plays nice with the congregation while poorly leading the staff.

Mistreating church staff places them in the awkward situation of not liking—or worse, detesting—the pastor the church loves. Here are some ways lead pastors can drive their staff nuts.

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  1. Pretend you know better than everyone else, especially in areas that require specialized knowledge or technical expertise you don’t have.
  2. During meetings, don’t take notes and constantly check your phone. Better yet, do all the talking at “team” meetings.
  3. Make up your vision as you go. Then, create fires to accomplish this short-sightedness.
  4. Design a big, ongoing task for your team. Never mention it again. 
  5. Create a bunch of drama over something minor. Call an all-staff meeting to discuss it.
  6. Tell the staff one thing. Then tell the church the exact opposite from the pulpit in your worship services.
  7. Never discipline anyone and try to be everyone’s best friend.
  8. Listen to prominent and influential church members more than your direct reports.
  9. Don’t tell anyone when you’ll be on vacation.
  10. Tell the congregation, “The buck stops with me.” Then flee from intra-staff conflict. 
  11. Create rules for the staff. Make exceptions for yourself.
  12. Be more interested in denominational politics than in your local church.
  13. Never address the elephant in the room. Instead, pretend it’s not there.
  14. Be threatened by others that are more talented than you. To deal with your insecurity, reassign these talented people to ministry areas outside their talent.
  15. Begin meetings with passive-aggressive devotionals that are spiritual on the surface but, in reality, are attacks on someone in the room.  

We love pastors at Church Answers, and we work daily to serve them in the best possible way. Most are incredible leaders. But sometimes problems start at the top. This list is extreme, yes, but it’s also helpful to self-evaluate.

Originally published at Church Answers. 

Sam Rainer is president of Church Answers and pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Florida. 

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