The Bottom Line of Bullying in the Church

Here’s news that to some may be shocking: There are bullies in the church. OK, maybe that’s not news. Anybody who has been active in the church knows it to be true.

Today, I came across an excellent article by Pastor Erik Parker, entitled, 12 Reasons It’s Good To Be A Church Bully. In it, Pastor Parker speaks to reasons why bullies are such a problem in the faith community.

Churches are very susceptible to inappropriate behavior. Christian niceness creates an environment where bullies thrive because people fear standing up and naming bad behavior. They fear appearing unchristian. Yet, unchecked bullying damages the church community.

I’ve faced bullies in every congregation I’ve served. In some congregations they have been more aggressive and more pervasive than in others. I remember the first time I met the spokesperson for a family of bullies. She came to my office the first day of my call to “welcome” me. She came with a plate of cookies, across which she smiled as she proceeded to tell me what I would not be allowed to do.

The bottom line of bullying, no matter the community is this: A community that allows the bully to continue his/her inappropriate behavior will experience bullying.

So, what is the church to do? A church that wishes to reclaim appropriate behavior in its community will do what schools are doing across the nation. They will enable each other to stand up against the bully. They will equip each other to name it for what it is and give permission to each other to call people out on bad behavior. Most of all, they will see this as an important ministry for the sake of the Church’s witness in the world.

I’ve done this as a pastor. I’ve named what I have seen. I’ve gone so far as to tell a volunteer that her services are no longer needed because her mean disposition was hurting those around her. It’s never enough, though, when only a pastor is setting the boundaries. It takes the efforts of many to contain a bully, to stop inappropriate behavior, and to protect the community.

Bullying will continue to be a problem in the church as long as people allow it.

So here is a question for you leaders of the church: What efforts has your church undertaken to end bullying? Tell your stories in the comment section below.

The above photo is “Angry” by Jonathan Grenier. It is used according to its Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.

2 thoughts on “The Bottom Line of Bullying in the Church”

  1. I have experienced bullies in every church I’ve attended. More so in the Midwest, then where we attended in a West Coast church. I think one reason for this, more family members worship together in the rural congregations, so other members are reluctant to address the problem, not to the bully, but for fear it would affect the friendships with the family members of the bully. The problem is serious, and must be addressed. The Pastor should not have to take on that task alone. I believe a small team, including the Pastor, a Deacon, and an objective church member, should meet with the bully, address the problem in a loving manner, and set a date to meet again to see how things are going. This may sound harsh, but I feel church members, including bullies, should be reprimanded for on godly behaviors, and if their inappropriate behavior continues, they should be asked to leave the church until he/she is ready to return with the right spirit. The meetings should begin with, and end with prayer, and the bully should be informed they are loved. One person should not have the opportunity to destroy a congreation over and over. Children are suspended from school for negative behavior. Employers suspend employees for negative behavior. Why should the church allow behavior so severe, it drives Christians away from the congregations and interferes with their relationship with Jesus, go unchallenged? Just a thought…I don’t expect everyone to agree with this method, but I have seen it work.

    1. Well put, Jo. Nice observation about the family connections at work in small town and rural churches. I believe, however, that there needs to be a larger group at work to end bullying in the church. The entire community needs to be equipped to stand up to poor behavior. Schools have learned that teachers alone cannot solve the problem, not even when working with administrators and other aids. All constituents need to be involved in the solution.

      The health of our churches depend on all of us working together to raise the bar for behavior.

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