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.