Home Pastors Articles for Pastors 6 Signs Your Church Is Dysfunctional

6 Signs Your Church Is Dysfunctional

1. First, many of the best leaders leave (and the leader finds a way to spin their departure).

2. Second, the leaders that stay take on the unhealthy characteristics of the organization, becoming part of the problem (even though they often bemoan the attributes of the leader). In a sense, we reproduce who we are—creating “mini-me” personalities of the leader.

Yet, that is what the unhealthy leader wants—no one to disagree or give another idea. So, in all likelihood, your best scenario is to leave.

If you believe you need to leave, start praying and looking for another ministry opportunity. This recognition of a different future will likely ease the daily pain and struggle, and help you to face each day. When you know you are going to leave, you can deal with staying a lot easier—and I know this from personal experience. When I have been in unhealthy situations, once I decided I was going to leave I did not worry so much about what was going on around me. Either way, trust your future to Christ and he gives peace that passes all understanding.

However, the reality is, in some cases you may need to stay. If that is the case, and if you believe God wants you to stay, I’d suggest these attitudes.

4 Ways to Change Church Dysfunction

1. Don’t be afraid.

Fear makes you cower rather than live in courage. Recognize you are in an unhealthy organization, but don’t become an unhealthy servant. I assure you, this will make you stand out (and people will say bad things), but don’t be a coward for any reason.

2. Make a difference.

When I served in unhealthy places, I simply asked, “What can I do here, now?” And when you are not scurrying about in fear, you can get much done for the kingdom. I was able to encourage a lot of people—often those living in the same toxic culture.

3. Speak truth.

Don’t be afraid to tell the truth about the culture, and when appropriate, the leadership. There will probably be some pushback, or even retaliation, but as you tell the truth with grace and humility, you may be heard—or it may reveal that you need to go.

4. Recognize the Lord may have other reasons for keeping you in your position.

Perhaps you have another ministry in your city or church. If that is the case, contribute where you can in your job, recognize how it provides for your family, but focus your energies on your ministry. I know some who continue to work in unhealthy organizations, but stay out of devotion to their local church ministry or other calling. They endure the unhealthy organization to pursue their calling with joy.

These are not easy answers. It may be some are struggling in their places of service and don’t know where to turn. I encourage you to pray and seek the Lord’s wisdom in your calling. It may be that you will be called to do some difficult yet courageous things.

Have you left a ministry? Have you stayed? What was the result? Did you make the wise choice? What did you learn? Share your thoughts with us below.

As I am doing for this particular series, the comment rules about anonymous posting are suspended but please be wise in the words/names used in your comments.

I will share one more post on the subject in the coming days.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.