37% Say They Avoid Churches Because of Negative Past Experiences

Posted on Posted in Church Leadership, Personality, Who's Killing Your Church

37% say they avoid churches because of negative past experiences…

A study and subsequent article from Barna Research stated, “Based on studies of those who avoid Christian churches, one of the driving forces behind such behavior is the painful experiences endured within the local church context. In fact, one Barna study among unchurched adults shows that nearly four out of every ten non-church going Americans (37%) said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.” (Footnotes removed.)

I know there are people who left a church because they didn’t like the truth that was being preached—I get that (either too strong or not strong enough). And I know there are people who left who didn’t like a certain style of preaching, music, or a myriad of other reasons. I understand. But there are also a lot of people who leave because that truth isn’t preached in love—the leader (or leaders) are not leading in love. Sometimes we concentrate so much on the truth we forget that that very truth calls us to love and good works to those God has given us charge over, or those in our group—or simply those in our own home (Galatians 6:1). I spent many years (40) at churches that had one or more domineering leaders and those leaders caused significant problems in the congregation, the staff, and even for the other elders. And I’m not just talking about a strong personality leader or people hurt because they didn’t like God’s truth. I’m talking about a leader who is eating their wounded without realizing it.

Based on another study, in Forbes magazine, just over one third (35%) of all employees say they have been bullied at work and in almost three quarters of the situations (72%), it was a leader doing the bullying. I’ve worked in both secular and sacred careers (and sometimes at the same time!). Granted the church is not the business world—but people are still people and our personality is the same wherever we go. As well, I have personally had domineering leaders in three of the four churches where I have been a member—actually, probably in all four, I just didn’t work under those leaders. And if that’s not enough, for a time—until God’s grace, time and sanctification changed my heart—I was one of those leaders (Dominant). As an executive coach and behavior specialist, I have coached and counseled pastors, worship leaders, elders, staff, and members who have suffered under a domineering leader. You might be surprised at the number of people that have been unintentionally hurt by a Dominant leader. I know I was surprised. So much so, that I wrote a book on it.

Unintentionally? Yep. One of the biggest weaknesses of a Dominant personality is a lack of self-awareness—they don’t know that they don’t know. Dominants have a tendency to only look forward and not look backwards. They have a goal and a need to accomplish it—which is a great strength for the church! However, this domineering nature can also lead to arrogance, harshness, and walking on people to get to that goal. All in the name of doing God’s work. And all the while, everybody—including the leader—doesn’t say or do anything about it. Now, not all pastors are this way. Even the ones who are highly Dominant can have their dominance under control—if they are being intentional about it—if they are walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17), if there are others holding them accountable. But just like any other diagnosis, we have to understand it and embrace it. Knowledge is important, but applying the fix is even more important. The problem is, Dominant personality types are over represented as pastors and so the problem is a lot more prevalent than you would think. Does this make them bad people? No. Does it make them unteachable? No, but it usually is more difficult to get them to see their faults and weaknesses, confess them, and get them to change. Does it make them ineffective as a pastor? Sometimes. Having a domineering attitude disqualifies you as an elder/pastor (1 Peter 5:1-3)—and can cause a lot of the havoc noted above. Am I against pastors? Not in the least—I appreciate, respect, and love them greatly. My heart is with them.

So how do you help a Dominant pastor? Start with wo great truths at the same time—it’s not impossible and it’s not easy—so it needs lots of prayer, hope, and work. Because it can sometimes take many people’s involvement, my book has a chapter to pastors themselves, elders, staff, and the congregation. Anyone can be involved loving and helping a Dominant pastor. Because my Dominant personality trait is very high, I have experienced the problems of a high Dominant—and others have unfortunately experienced it, too (from me). But by God’s grace, as I studied leadership for many years, personality, and the Word, He gave me the mercy and grace to recognize these weaknesses (and the wife to help me recognize them!) and learn to be more loving, kind, and bear the Fruits of the Spirit while continuing to be a strong leader. We usually don’t mean to be domineering, but can go there quickly (and yes, there are some that are very intentional about their domineering nature). My heart’s desire is to help these pastors and elders—and anyone who has a high Dominant personality—conquer these painful weaknesses and be more useful to God and your neighbor here on earth.

This is just a sampling of the problem that we have uncovered. I am going to write a series of articles defining this personality trait much more so everyone can understand this person and learn how to work with them better. If you’re a leader, it will be a great opportunity for you to take inventory and work on the things you discover. Domineering leaders aren’t the only ones with problems—we all have different weaknesses. To make sure you don’t miss a single article, sign up here and I’ll send them to you weekly. Or you can buy the book here and get much more detail for yourself and read it on your own time. Or if you know or have a dominant pastor/elder/leader, you can give the book to them if they need help understanding this difficult issue.

Looking forward to a great conversation with you!

Much love & blessings in Christ,

Royce & The Caris Group Team

About the Author…

Leadership and personality specialist Royce White, CEO and founder of The Caris Group, offers keen awareness and specific solutions to high Dominant pastors, staff, and their congregations on how to help domineering pastors build and maintain strong and healthy leaders and churches. You can pick up his new book, Who’s Killing Your Church? here.

Edited: V 2.1 — 20190702-0614
Original: V 1.8 — 20190626-1240