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7 of the Most Dangerous Church Cultures I’ve Observed

dangerous church cultures

What makes a toxic church?

I was talking with a couple of pastors recently about leading in church revitalization and growth. Both of these pastors are seasoned church leaders—having far more experience in total than I have in vocational ministry.

Toxic Church Cultures

Mostly I listened to their stories. Both are currently in difficult pastorates. One of them serves in a church that has a history of very short-term pastorates. The other is in a church that has seen a roller coaster trend in church attendance—every time they get in a season of growth it’s followed by a season of decline—sometimes rapid decline.

Frankly, I prefer to have conversations about opportunities and possibilities than about challenges and frustrations. But, get a few pastors in the room and there will be some war stories. Leading toward health in a church can be a battle sometimes.

Just like it’s been said numerous times—leading people is easy if it wasn’t for the people.

I tried to encourage them in their call and offered a few suggestions for them in their current situations. But, the conversation stayed on my mind for days afterward.

A few days after this conversation, I was talking with another pastor friend, reflecting on what I had heard in the previous conversation. I didn’t share names or specific situations, but it led us to a discussion about church cultures.

Every Church Has Its Own Culture

Both of the pastors in the original conversation just seemed to find themselves in some very toxic church cultures.

I’ve seen lots of different cultures while consulting and working with churches for over a decade. Regardless of what some believe—there are some healthy churches. And, there are some who are not so healthy.

It always breaks my heart to encounter a church that is ready to implode. Frankly, some churches live in that tension continually. Some cultures are dangerous—toxic even.

Why do some churches seem to have such a hard time keeping church staff for any significant length of time? It usually has something to do with the culture of the church.

Why are some churches more resistant to change than others? It will almost always reflect back to the culture of the church.