10 ways pastors can be bad bosses
I’ve been working with pastors and the people they serve for more than three decades. That means two things: I have a lot of experience and I am old.
Over the course of three decades, I have seen some pastors thrive and others fail. And I have seen two common reasons for pastors failing: 1) they lack leadership skills and, 2) they lack relational skills.
While most pastors have no formal training in either, they are expected to lead and relate the first day they begin serving a church. Indeed, many pastors are expected to be bosses of full-time or part-time personnel, even though they may have never before led anyone.
So, what is the difference between a good pastor-boss and a bad pastor-boss? I will address the good pastor bosses in my next blog in this space.
For now, I will share with you the conversations our researchers had with those who served under bad pastor bosses.
Here are the top 10 complaints we heard:
1. Micromanagement.“I can’t do anything without the pastor getting involved and showing me a better way, or even taking over. He drives me crazy!”
2. Avoiding conflict.“We have tons of unresolved conflict in our church because our pastor won’t address the issues. He tries to please everyone, and so he pleases no one.”
3. Avoiding making decisions.“Our church seems like we are stuck in molasses because the pastor just can’t make a decision. He seems to live in fear of making the wrong move.”
4. Stealing credit. “My pastor can’t stand for anyone else to have a good idea. It has to be his. So if we have a good idea, he ridicules it. But a few months later he ‘discovers’ the same idea and takes full credit for it.”
5. Shifting blame.“If you listened to our pastor, you would think he is blameless. If something does go wrong, he is quick to blame someone else for the problem. Two words I’ve never heard from him are: ‘I’m sorry.’”
6. Hoarding information.“I don’t get it. He keeps all information close to his vest. He seems to think it gives him some kind of authority or control. We on staff really don’t know what’s going on.”
7. Failing to listen.“We’ve learned not to express any opinions to the pastor. We know he is only thinking about his next sentence instead of listening to us.”
8. Setting a poor example.“Our church doesn’t reach anyone for Christ. And guess who never mentions evangelism, much less does evangelism? Our pastor.”
9. Having a poor work ethic.“He probably works about four hours a day, but he gets furious when he thinks we aren’t doing our job. He’s a total slackard!”
10. Not developing staff.“He doesn’t train us, work with us, develop us, or point us to good resources. In fact, he rarely spends any time with us. I can’t call him a leader because he’s not leading us.”
Leaders and bosses
In my next blog, I will address the 10 traits of good pastor bosses. And they aren’t necessarily the opposites of the bad boss characteristics.
Pastors must be good leaders. Pastors must be good bosses. If your skills in this area are lacking, it’s worth finding out how you can improve—and then take steps to do so.
Thom Rainer / Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.