Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When Preachers are Steamrollers

A young preacher was hired to lead one of the large churches on the Northwest side of our city. One of his favorite mantras over the past year-and-a-half has been, “I’d rather do something and make a mistake, then do nothing.”

So, Pastor W. has done a whole lot of somethings and has made a whole lot of mistakes. Sadly, many of his missteps have left wounded and broken people in their wake. Is that fair?

My question today is, at what point should a church board or council step in and decide enough is enough?

Pastor W. fired several long-time church employees and replaced them with younger, hipper staffers. He was new to our area when he was installed and he knew no one. He hired several people who swooped in and impressed the new guy, but who had little work experience. Some of those laborers didn’t work out so well. So, faithful long-time employees are out of work, and the church is still short-staffed because the younger, hipper new-hirers got in way over their heads.

Two decades ago the church family raised the funds to build a gym that could accommodate the needs of the growing kids and teens. It was an especially important project for the then-pastor because he recognized that without kids the church dies. It was a magnificent building—basketball court, moveable stage, tons of room—an all-purpose family life center.

The preacher who oversaw the building of that center passed away a few years ago. I wonder what he would say now that the gathering place for kids and families has been remodeled into a second Sanctuary, and is no longer basketball or kid friendly.

Under Pastor W’s leadership, Sunday school classes have been cancelled, events are no more, ministries were told to roll up their banners and call it quits, and Bible study groups have been disbanded. Services have been added and subtracted, and the “direction of the church” has changed four or five times in less than 2 years.

Not everyone is as ADD as the young new pastor, and parishioners can be slow to change. You know, Christians love their church. They love the choir, their Sunday school teacher, the nursery “cuddlers” who invest in their kids and grandkids, and the friendly face that greets them with a warm handshake every Sunday morning.

Change is good. Change is necessary. Without change there is no growth. But is there such a thing as moving too fast? What happens to the church body when you steamroll over it? People have hearts and relationships and feelings. Christians are like everybody else—we need to find a place where we belong.

Is steamrolling over folks and their ideas really the best way for Pastor W. to grow the church? People are leaving in droves, while others are sitting and stewing in their pew of anger and disappointment. The church board is “trusting God”.

I firmly believe that change is a GREAT thing and is imperative for new growth. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think that pride gets in the way when good men put more value in their ideas then they do on the feelings and needs of the people who hired them. We get mad at politicians who do that and we fire them! But when a pastor does the same thing, we often get angry, hurt, or bitter, and leave the body. Some of us have spoken up, but we’ve been chastised by pew-sitters for doing so.

I don’t know the answer, but we’ve got to do better. Get off the pew and do better!


  1. I was looking for a photo of a steam roller today....feeling much like I had been run over by one ....while coordinating a project at church....and I found your blog. Awesome post. (We never fire politicians; we get mad and re-elect them tho). Feeling like we could fire a few folks where I go to church today!

  2. Stitchinggrandma....I hope you're feeling better today and less rolled over.