I owe a big “thank you” to the nearly 400 people who answered my poll about being wounded by the church. I’m still sorting through all the personal comments you left (and I am getting my dissertation written!), but I wanted to share some of the clear “big pictures” that came through in the poll results.
I am most saddened to see the results of question seven: only 0.7 percent said that their hurts were healed according to the biblical prescription where two people met, talked, and worked out their difficulties. I am saddened, but not surprised because apparently few people, even those on pastoral staffs, practice biblical communication. There’s a lot of talking going on these days, but most of it isn’t biblical, honest, or even completely true. A lot of people–even the wounded–don’t want to admit that people in the church can and do wound others. But let’s set aside diplomacy and simply tell the truth: even Christian people are human, and unless they are deeply committed to biblical practices, they’re likely to take the easy way out. And denial is easy.
So–here, lightly edited, are your responses to the poll’s key questions. I will share more of what I’m learning in a bit, but I’m still sifting through materials and poll results. Again, thank you for your willingness to share your experiences!
Here are the poll results:
1. When you were hurt by your church, were you a member, a lay leader, or on paid staff?
I was a member . . . 62.37 percent.
I was a lay leader (volunteer leadership role): 33.90 percent
I was on part-time staff: 5.76 percent
I was on full-time staff: 9.83 percent
2. The situation that caused your hurt—was it primarily the work of one person or several people?
One person—the pastor: 42.54 percent
One person—someone in the congregation: 10.96 percent
One person—a staff member, but not the pastor: 12.72 percent
Many people—a committee: 20.61 percent
Many people—an ad hoc group from within the congregation: 28.95 percent
3. When you were hurt by your church—was this a one-time thing (one certain situation), or was the hurt ongoing?
It was a one-time thing—before that I’d been happy in my church: 36.52 percent
It was pretty much ongoing—the situation kept repeating itself: 36.17 percent
It was pretty much continual: 29.79 percent
4. Did you try to directly confront the person or situation who hurt you?
Yes, I went to the person or persons who had hurt me: 34.16 percent
No, I didn’t: 10.68 percent
I tried, but was unsuccessful in my attempts to confront them: 20.64 percent
I wanted to, but didn’t think I’d be heard: 11.39 percent
I didn’t think I had the right to confront the situation: 9.25 percent
No, because I didn’t want to make trouble in the church: 9.96 percent
I didn’t do anything; I just quietly left the church: 19.93 percent
5. If you didn’t directly confront the person or persons who hurt you, did you talk about the problem to someone else?
I went to another church staff member: 20 percent
I went to a friend: 42.16 percent
I confided in my spouse only: 36.76 percent
I asked people outside the church for advice: 22.70 percent
6. Has this hurt you experienced kept you from church still? In other words, are you currently worshipping and active in a church body?
No, I am currently active in the same church where I experienced hurt: 10.83 percent
I went away for a while, but time passed and now I’m back: 5.78 percent
I am worshipping and active at another church: 33.57 percent
I have been unable to find another church home: 15.88 percent
I have no interest in regularly attending another church: 12.64 percent
7. Has the hurt you experienced been healed?
Yes, but my healing came from time, prayer, and my willingness to forgive the situation. The other party or parties weren’t involved in my healing: 55.8 percent
Yes, the other parties and I met, talked about it, and things were made right: 0.72 percent
No, the other party and I met, talked about it, and things were not made right: 8.33 percent
No–I carry effects from that wound until this day: 32.25 percent
No–and I left the ministry because of that hurt: 10.14 percent
8. If you could advise the body of Christ about how to prevent hurt or how to heal hurt, what advice would you give?
*Create channels to regularly check in with people, not only at the church level, but also in small groups.
*Don’t jump to conclusions and assumptions.
*Have honest, open discussion. This church never listened to me or answered my questions. And grace.
*Walk in love, be humble, accept discipline, and look for ways to nurture and build people up.
*Bathe decisions in prayer, treat people with respect, and humbly be willing to answer questions.
*Don’t give power to any one person – Christ should be the head of or in charge at your church, not a human!
*Change the way you approach divorces and divorcées. Divorce is rarely, if ever, an option of first (or second or third) resort. By the time most couples reach the end of their marriage, every option has been tried and exhausted. Look into what abused women experience, and make certain not to encourage them to stay and try again because the abuse is ‘only’ psychological or emotional.
*Open communication and respect for women.
*Genuinely care about people.. Enough to reach out when they are hurting. You may not be able to do anything about their situation, but at least it shows love and concern.
*Make your church a place where everyone feels loved and wanted and included, not just the people who have their junk together.
*Advocate for independent thinking instead of trying to make everyone think the same way.
*The overriding directive we have from God is to love one another. He enumerates many ways we should live in order to please him–true. But too often Christians turn hypocritical and elitist about stupid things like worship practices. God judges; we don’t. Start loving people as other children of God, regardless of what beliefs or behaviors they hold. More love and empathy is never a bad thing.
*Strive for transparency.
*Don’t create cliques within the church.
*Do unto others as you would have done to you.
*The church is not a social club or a political party. It is a family. You may not always like your family. You may fight with your family. But you should be committed to your family for the long haul. The amazing thing about it, is that if you stick it out through conflict with your family, you will become closer to them on the other end.
*Go public right away and get problems out in the open
*Make sure you are clean before the Lord and just chalk [problems] up to human [nature]. Decide in your own mind to forget it and move on.
*Listen and apply. Give validity to everyone’s thoughts, feelings and discussions. Make time for the people in your church. Don’t become closed-minded and don’t become prideful—wisdom and innovation often come from the most unlikely places. Don’t treat women like secondary citizens.
*Just love people and listen. Don’t try to have answers and stop judging. You don’t know
*Listen, talk, and walk out your faith rather than judging too quickly.
*Love everyone. Just love them. And give back to the ones who pour their selves into the church. That means asking their opinion, soaking them in prayer, and not using them as a last resort. Remember, women were the first Christians. Check out Luke 24:10 where the angels appeared to Joanna, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary. They believed and it took the men they tried to share with a bit longer. Typical. Anyway, women should not be the last ones considered.
*People are fallen, and will let you down. There is true joy in forgiveness, and the other person doesn’t have to deserve it or even know that you have forgiven him. Hanging on to hurt, however legitimate, causes bitterness, which only hurts you.
*Do not worship the pastor; he is not God.
*”The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
*Stop playing God. Keep the plank out of your own eye.
*To seek God and His will and way before destroying a godly family and their children
*Forgive not because they need it, but because you do . . .
*Communicate, be honest, be forthright, and don’t allow any deceit in the relationship. And if all else fails, take it to the bishop. If that doesn’t work, quit and let the congregation know why. And pray for your enemies.
*Love everyone just the same. God doesn’t care what religion you are. You won’t get to Heaven because you’re this or that. Only if you have Jesus in your heart.
*”Take a good long look into the Word, a mirror to your own soul, and deal with the planks in your own eye . . . then move on with forgiveness and wisdom, careful not to gossip, but open to quietly be available to others who have been hurt.”
*Love unconditionally like we are supposed to. God is our judge and jury, not any person on this earth.
*Time and prayer helps to heal hurt. God can heal all hurt. Love one another as God commanded and treat each other the way you would want to be treated.
*Love others and accept them as they are. The next church I went to loved my children and accepted them for who they were as well as understood my son’s need to be dong something manual, Rubick’s cube, puzzles, while he listened to the lesson. He always was the first one to answer the questions even though he might have looked like he wasn’t listening. Both children are believers!
*To recognize that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but with the principalities of darkness. Even when the darkness has skin on, the real perpetrator is Satan. I’ve learned that persecutions, afflictions, and tribulations come with living a godly life. All of our heroes of faith have endured difficulties because they stood for righteousness. Also, I try to remind myself that everyone has a story. Quite often, the bad behavior is a symptom of a deep hurt. That helps me have some compassion and helps me see them through the eyes of God. And always remember, “But for the grace of God go I.” No one walks in perfection.
*Be humble and know that you are not immune.
*Forgiveness is key. Also a willingness to look at your own sins. I believe there is a need for better conflict management in the church. The way my dad was treated was not out of love.
*Leadership (pastors, elders, shepherds) need to attend to the entire flock, not just their friends. If someone is hurting go and pray with them… not just once but often. Don’t let those who are hurting be an island in the middle of a stormy sea. Silence is heartbreaking.
*Whatever the case, whoever is responsible in a marriage separation, reach out to both members. And if you can’t try and counsel them together, at least reach out to both and try and assist in the healing.
*We are called to forgive as Christ forgave us- undeserving as we are. He also told us to pray for our enemies, so we have no excuse.
*Be kind, don’t make assumptions, be accepting, try to understand people’s personal decisions, realize that we are all different. As Christians we are not to conform to this world, but there is a great deal of conformity in the church as well. Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean that I listen to the same worship songs, or that I’m called to be in the church ministry, or that I’m reading the popular Bible study. I would want the church to be more accepting of individuality and to know God has specific plans for each of us, and that most of the time those plans lead us in different directions.
*If you are a friend, then be a friend.
*The deepest hurt I see today is the judgment of homosexuals and other marginalized people. How dare they.
*Approach your differences in love and with straight talk about specifics. The person you have a problem with needs to know that you care about them and their feelings even if you have to do something hard like let a staff member go.
*I knew God did not want this pastor in this church, my husband and I were the only ones who did not agree with our small congregation. I knew he was destroying the church that the Lord had called us to come there to build. When we saw we had no power to stop, we should have left and not stayed for our friends’ sake. I felt we had to stay because God called us to that place. Well, God can also move you to another place. Listen, listen, listen to the Holy Spirit and do His will.
*Take a very close look at how Jesus dealt with people—with love, compassion, forgiveness, gentleness, impartiality, humility, firmness. Jesus gave us the perfect example of how to treat others.
*Obviously, lots of prayer. The regional leaders of a denomination would be wise to hear from “regular” church members and not automatically assume the pastor’s story is unbiased. With more than one pastor, I’ve seen different behavior depending on the position of the person/people he/she was communicating with. I wonder if three to six months sabbaticals would be helpful for pastors. I didn’t feel like I could share with those in authority in the region because I didn’t want to condemn the pastor or gossip. By the way, the pastor and I did talk during the whole time . . . but the pastor pretty much became a dictator.
*Don’t take things personally. Some things just aren’t worth it, but if you need to take a stand on something, then do it and accept the fallout.
*Go in the trenches with the people. Do not abandon the young widows. Get educated about suicide. Pay more attention to the weakened and stop the judgments. After all . . . who is stronger during these types of crises? Is the church not called to help carry the burdens?
*Keep confidences . . . teach children and adults the biblical truth about homosexuality.
*Don’t discount or mistrust secular mental health professionals.
*The pastor needs checks and balances. When a pastor heads into the woods with false or harmful teachings, someone has to curb him. If there is no safety net, the congregation suffers. If wasn’t just the “teens are going to hell” comments — it was the “if you were truly in the will of God, you wouldn’t have any problems.” I’m sorry, but that’s not what my Bible says at all! But the pastor appeared to be beyond the correction of any person. We left him to God, and knew only He could correct this pastor’s thinking. I don’t know how that came out.
*Get over yourself and learn to differentiate between your personal preferences and the standards in the Scripture. Learn how to follow. Learn how to pray. Learn how to keep the main thing the main thing. Understand that the church is not your country club; it is a hospital and a dispatch center to care for the lost and wounded.
*Don’t gossip, don’t judge, and go to that person and talk to them in love.
*Listen and react with compassion
*We are all people made in the image of Christ. We must be united as one body.
*If there is someone in the body causing pain to others, address the problem as soon as possible and do what is necessary no matter who is involved. There is a place for church discipline, doled out in appropriate measure.
*Remember that we all have to come to the cross. Be real and compassionate in your dealings with others.
*Listen to both sides of a situation before you judge someone. If you are going to offer support to one party, also offer support to the other. Don’t judge and automatically assume that the woman is at fault in domestic violence situations.
*Offer healing in the ways that you would want others to help you heal—that is, be compassionate.
*Don’t judge Christians by the church or the behavior of those in the church. We are all flawed and the only perfect example is Christ.
*My God-Sized Dream—I dream that one day Christians would be warm, caring, non- legalistic, non-self-righteous, authentic, passionate followers of Jesus.
The broken, the irreligious, the fallen, the different, and the unlovely should be welcomed at church.
I wish churches would would measure success by the depth of their love, not by the number of their flock, size of the budget, or beauty of their buildings.
I’m dreaming of a day when Christians would stay married when times are tough; when forgiveness is sought and granted, and predictable struggles would result in humbly coming to God, His Word, and a wise brother or sister for wisdom and help.
I’m dreaming of a day when parents model holiness, purity, and set boundaries for their children to protect them from the seductive world system (that promises everything and delivers death).
I’m dreaming of a day when parents eat together and laugh, tell stories of God’s love at bedtime, tickle each other to tears, spill popcorn on the floor, pray about tests, lost friends, and neighbors, and make their house the most exciting and fun place on the block.
I’m dreaming of a day when Christians know their neighbors’ names and eat hamburgers with them in the back yard; a day when … we’re known by our love.
I’m dreaming of a day when churches work together to paint schools, clean parks, build houses in the tough part of town, and refuse to care who gets the credit.
I’m dreaming of a day when Christians would be known more what we are “for” more than what we are against; a day when prayer would be viewed as more powerful than politics, and people would be valued and treated with dignity even if what they believe is the antithesis of all we stand for.
I’m dreaming of a day when Christians would cease to be so concerned about being “cool,” hip, cutting edge and relevant, and simply be consistent, caring, and committed to become like Jesus and do what He says.
I’m dreaming of a day when nine out of tenChristians would think it abnormal and strange if they did not:
Live before God daily—in His word and prayer
Do life in community—small group, authentic relationships weekly
Be on mission twenty-four/seven.
This is a dream I can’t shake. It’s a dream that Christians everywhere, in every culture, in every country, in every expression of Christ’s church, would simply “live like Christians!”
Maybe it’s because this isn’t my dream at all, it’s Jesus’ divine will and prayer for His church … It’s what He meant when He taught us to pray …
“May Thy will be done and Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.”— Chip Ingram”
*Listen with an open mind, dialogue with a forgiving spirit, don’t get caught up in yourself.
*Advertise the job to get the best person. Don’t just hire family and get the church to vote if not all were happy with the decision.
*Don’t just tell the wounded to forgive. It lays the burden of repairing the relationship solely on them, and allows the perpetrator to continue their destruction. For the sake of their souls, they need to be confronted.
*Don’t get too close to people, try not to substitute them for family. They are not your family!
*For prevention, be open to honest, constructive communication, and for healing, study John Bevere’s book, The Bait of Satan.
*It would be so wonderful if we could just get along and support one another even if there are differences of opinions. Not everyone believes the same about certain things and as long as you agree doctrinally, then why nitpick at someone else for seeing a doctor, using a different homeschool curriculum, etc.
*If you are worried about someone using Christ as an excuse to behave inappropriately toward your spouse, meet with that person as a couple. Don’t just treat them like a hooker. They are looking at you to see Jesus. It was only because I had other Christians in the family that I held on for so long. Not everyone has that support.
*Love people—hate the sin. Remember God has already forgiven their sin, so who are we to be suspicious, standoffish and judgmental?
*Deal with problems . . . even when it is tough. Everyone sins, so don’t expect perfection but repentance and the will to want to make things right.
*Everyone makes mistakes but all can and should be forgiven. No one is above saying “I’m sorry.” Every spoken word has the ability to hurt or to heal, and words should be used cautiously. God is the ultimate authority in church—He is the head, not a man. Prayer is available to all and the Holy Spirit leads many in the body, not just the pastor.
*Reach out to your own.
*Do not treat people as if they’re invisible. Call them, ask them to come meet with you. Include another woman in the church to help you come alongside. Make sure youth ministers are coming alongside the children, especially when they stop attending church. Ask. Form a support group for women or men in similar situations.
*Be accountable and responsible for not only your actions but also your words, let your yes mean yes and no mean no.
*Like all people, churches need to overlook the superficial outside of people and get to know people’s heart. In my case, I was not as they thought . . . but if I were, would that have made my service to the Lord any different?
*Be kind. Be caring. Smile as often as possible. Follow God’s rules as given in Scripture before following anything else. Scripture covers how to treat people.
*Be clear about the principles your church is founded on and stay true to those beliefs.
*Find another church, don’t let it keep hurting you.
*The church is not above the law. If a crime is going on, it needs to be reported to the authorities, no matter what. “Prophets” can prophesy falsely, or make mistakes, or bring their own agenda into the mix, and a lot of people can be hurt if abuse isn’t dealt with properly and legally.
*Check all the facts; don’t re-victimize the victim.
*Be a hand for your community, but most importantly your members.
*Forgive and move forward.
*Decide if a problem incident is a reflection on that body as a whole, or the sin of one. If it’s the one, then try to work it out . . . or, as in my case, avoid them (as leadership didn’t do anything about it). If you are in danger, leave. And pray for the person.
*Honor, esteem one another higher than yourself, deal honestly with one another, and if hurts do occur, restore don’t reject.
*Think before you act. Stop and think about how you are affecting others before opening your mouth and making bad choices.
*God can turn what others meant for harm into good.
*You cannot prevent hurt. Focus on and trust in Jesus primarily. Forgive generously. Remember to be authentic and kind yourself. People are not a commodity!
*Listen to the people’s concerns. Even if you don’t agree with them, hear them out, pray with them, do any appropriate follow-up, and don’t cut them off from from your caring and compassion. Don’t pretend there is no problem, but confront it together and work toward a solution or at least some understanding of each other’s position. Don’t refuse to respect someone.
*Be responsible for your own spiritual growth! You are responsible for your own self and your kids! Love God and keep Him #1!
*The same advice the other pastor’s wife gave me. Don’t rehearse the hurt to everyone you can because each time you do, you are reliving it. You forgive the person through prayer and leaning on God. Then it is up to the other because they are responsible for their own behavior.
*Prayer. If you are in ministry you can’t prevent hurt and still be effective in ministry. Yes, there are things I would do differently, but they are mostly small things, nothing specific in nature. In my case, remaining in the same church for two and a half years prevented healing. We stayed mainly for our children, who were very active in the church. But, as a result all three left their faith and the church; only one has returned. And that has been a nightmare of epic portions; causing hurt beyond comprehension. It has also prevented returning to ministry which would be the ultimate healing; if it ever happens; as I am nearly sixty and have a multitude of health issues.
*Pastors that do spiritual violence to others in the church should be held accountable just as surely as those who do physical violence.
*I am not sure. I think it comes with getting saved and realizing that church is not about me but about God. It is about worshiping Him and not myself. I think the most hurt occurs when we put ourselves up as our own “God” and expect people to worship us.
*Trust the ones who bring charges in the job they are mandated to do.
*Love each other and know that offenses will come. I look at hurts as a fence between two parties. Tear it down.
*There isn’t any hope. People do what they think is right.
*Be supportive and open minded to change. Not just any change; the change that is for the betterment of the church. There are hurting people that need Jesus. We need to put ourselves and our personal agenda aside and see that there is a lost & dying world headed to Hell if we don’t straighten up and listen to and follow Christ’s leadership and not ourselves. When we take the focus off ourselves and put it on Christ, where it should be, everything else doesn’t matter. Following Christ and leading others into a personal relationship with Him is what it’s all about. It’s not about us, it’s about how can we share Jesus through our hurts and trials? Am I living to please man or God? That is what matters . . . doing what God has called us to do.
*It’s normal that we get hurt. Jesus took on more hurt than I could ever endure. I need to remember that and know that Jesus taught forgiveness.
*Own up to what you do and people will forgive you and work through it with you.
*Get to know all of the people in your church for who they are as a person, not just for what they can do for the church.
*First, go to the Bible for guidance and eliminate the “but what’s” , then avoid the cowardly responses by addressing the complete issues at hand, not just numbers. To address the physical histories, to look each person in a pew in the eye. I think it would be wonderful to get people from all sides of the fences together to communicate needs and help. Surely there have to be brainstormers of record at other churches whom can perhaps match folks up as sister churches or mentors. I do not have much hope for this denomination’s future unless care from the very person responsible for its health is taken care of.
*The church does not exist to serve you. You exist to serve God through the church.
*Do everything to prevent cliques and don’t ignore issues in the church.
*Show compassion when someone is broken. Don’t be afraid of the tears. Meet with the congregation minister even if it takes a few minutes longer at the end of the service.
*I would advise the body to make the time for lots and lots of prayer—and diligent study of scripture—before hiring anyone to minister! Even persons who have grown up in a church and are wanting to minister in that church should be accountable and be willing to submit to a waiting period that includes lots of prayer and (hopefully) hearing from the Lord. Any teachers need to study James 3:1 and pray over it, acknowledging the warning it contains.
*Act like a Christ-centered person and not a lip-service Christian. BE a Christ-centered person.
*When hurt has occurred, it is extremely important for things to be cleared up in the same manner they were administered – with all parties!
*Grace and forgiveness
*Love everyone, regardless of their circumstances. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be afraid to give a hug or smile. Provide a meal for child-sit for an afternoon.
*I was never told the truth. I met with the pastor and asked about forgiving, but he was not helpful. My friends were the only ones that helped me. The church should not cater to those that put the most in the offering plate. We are all the body of Christ and are all needed and important to the other parts. The pastor should have set me up with people to help with my feelings and help me to learn how to forgive.
Maybe God needs to use you somewhere else. Be still and listen!
*Pray. Take the feelings of others into account. If you are offended by something, discuss it with the one who gave offense. They may not have meant it the way you took it.
*That we will (or at least should have) Jew and Gentiles following after the King of The Jews and leave us alone to be happy that the scriptures were opened for us. The church is not a Gentile entity.
*Stand on God’s word, not just your personal feelings.
*We are all imperfect people serving a perfect/holy God. We all need to grasp that concept when looking at each other.
*James 2:1 and 2:9
*Practice the ‘One Anothers’ from the New Testament.
*Ask questions: What can I do to help you in your time of need? Make follow up calls a few days later to see if anything has changed. Do you need anything now? The day after a death you are numb.
*Do not put people into social groups. Love and care about each individual as unto the Lord. We are all the same in God’s eyes.
*Be kind and gentle when you give a decision, also if you could give a brief explanation as to why your answer is what it is it might help.
*Above all, be truthful!
*Pay attention to the kids. If they show signs of abuse, physical, mental or sexual (my father did all three) take the issue seriously, ask questions, and find out what’s going on.
*Treat others like you would want them to treat you.
*Develop a real understanding of the love chapter, how God wants us to love and nurture one another through good times and bad, through both real and perceived wrongs. Strive for unity and take to heart the scripture and song that says, “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
*How to heal? I have no idea. I still haven’t. To prevent hurt, love me every day, not just on Sundays.
*For the one who’s been hurt— go to Scripture and change any misconceptions you might have carried into the situation. Talk to the people who hurt you. Listen without taking their input about you. They are just people and because they have a paid position doesn’t guarantee that they are even consulting God in their decisions.
Forgive—don’t require punishment or view them as if they owe you a debt. This doesn’t mean you should give them undeserved influence in your life and thoughts when they talk to you. Ask for scripture to support their decisions and theories. If they have scriptures to give, get with the Holy Spirit and see if He has a message for you in those scriptures. Just because a pastor wants to beat you up with scripture (possibly misquoted), doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit wants to use it that way in your life.
And for the one who’s doing the hurting: It is very hard when someone comes with an issue. Most times they come with anger. Fight defensiveness with all you have. Put yourself in their shoes and see the event as it happened to them. Be ready to fight the church policies that directly conflict with scripture, even if it means your job. If the hurt has occurred because you implemented scripture and the one who’s been hurt wanted to control God’s perspective, apologize for the hurt, but not the scripture. Micah 6:8: “No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
*Read the Bible, and stand firm on the truth of the scriptures. There is no tolerating unbiblical teachings from the pulpit, and there is no abiding dissension, and those who cause it. Pastors are to listen to their lay leaders. Those people have been members in the church for many more years than the Methodist pastors that move every few years, so be a leader, yes, but listen to your congregants.
*Be friendly, especially if people are reaching out.
*You need to research better and don’t discard people.
*Just be aware that different people respond to situations in different ways, and what doesn’t faze one person, may really hurt someone else. Healing takes time, and letting go, and forgiving, whether the person asked forgiveness or not. Let God take the hurt for you. Sometimes this is a long process, but so worth it in the end.
*Don’t shoot your wounded! Trust your elder board. The church is not a democracy, but a theocracy.
*Think twice before you speak.
*Practice good communication and honesty. Don’t allow things to fester. Seek to resolve issues. If feelings of inferiority are causing paranoia, those in church leadership should get counseling
*Being territorial and manipulative is not the way to build the kingdom of God. Refusing to engage in respectful dialogue adds to the hurt.
*Have a committee to decide what the church money should be spent on. The pastor should not be on this committee. If it’s a large purchase, have the congregation vote on it.
*Keep in the Word and if a problem does not concern you, stay out of it.
*Listen to the congregation. Maybe even vote on major changes.
*Make choices with God, not because the pastor is charming. People need to be able to think for themselves.
*Keep a confidence.
*Never assume you know what you can expect from someone (a church or pastor) based on who they are, where they come from, or any awards they may have won. Ask them thorough questions and find out their philosophies and background. If we had done that, we would have never worked for this pastor.
*Reach out in love! Don’t ignore situations as if they don’t exist.
*Pray and ask for guidance and then start your search. I started going to different churches until I found the one that made me want to be there. Made me feel like I belong. Thanks, Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.
*Deal with the hurt. Don’t put pastors on a pedestal or give them too much power. Keep them accountable and humble. Follow Matthew 5:8.
*No one is perfect, no ministry, organization, or person in ministry….so you have to choose what you want to do about it and how you want to heal. God gives the ultimate healing and forgiveness, but it’s up to you to act on it.
*Instead of judging and hurting the Christians who actually open up about their sin and struggles, the church should be the one place we feel safe to share them openly.
*Be careful who you trust. Betrayers can be anywhere.
*Always be friendly, accepting. Don’t assume people are connected because they’ve been attending for months or years.
*Be sincere and follow through. Don’t get side tracked by things like planning the next back to school bash. Investing in “saved” people is important as well as investing in the lost.
*Don’t state absolutes. There are too many times when you don’t understand the situation.
*Care for others.
*Put God first, not your personal feelings.
*Don’t automatically dismiss those who have a different perspective. Seek out leaders with the gift of discernment/wisdom and ask their opinions.
*Know how much God loves you, maybe learn the true meaning of Grace.
*Stick strictly to the Bible and follow Christ’s example.
*Prevent hurt: follow Christ’s example and guidelines for conflict resolution to the letter.
*Healing hurt: if you have done everything in your ability to follow scripture and the other party has not, shake them off your feet. Surround yourself with others who are following scripture, dive deeper in the Word, less drama TV shows and music, literally surround yourself with Christ. He will heal you.
*Create a culture that honors others and insists that they deal with personal grievances directly. Trying to draw the pastor/deacons in to triangulate and resolve conflict is unbiblical and unhealthy. Refuse to be a party to gossip or to carry anonymous complaints to the pastor/church leaders. If someone feels that strongly about something, they need to come talk to the pastors on their own.
*Healing hurt—recognize that God is the healer. Go to him to heal your heart and don’t expect that the other person will fix the situation. Your healing is independent of their repentance.
*Practice communication and openness.
*Church discipline can and should be used in a loving and effective manner. Christians actively serving in a church should not be allowed to continue in open and unrepentant sin. When concerns such as open sin are brought before the leadership, they shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet and those who bring these issues before the leadership should not be the ones who are disciplined.
*I can’t think of better advice than that given in Matthew 18:15-17, but it’s much more difficult if the offense-giver is the pastor. And he’s your dad.
*Your perception of a person becomes your reality of them. Be advised that your perception might not actually be reality. A person can have a spirited discussion and not be offended that you disagree. When you find out my gifts, please don’t assume I’d love to serve in a certain area of the church. Get to know me as a person, not for what you can drain out of my giftedness.
*Place the right people in positions of leadership. They should be servant leaders, not lords.
*Be slow to make assumptions, even slower to spread gossip, and quick to ask for forgiveness even when you feel you were the person injured.
*Be watchful when a Pastor stops going to those in authority over him and when a fundraiser for a lot of cash has to happen. Question, question, question!
*Make sure you sincerely pray before you make any decisions, and if you hear you have hurt someone make sure you don’t let pride and arrogance get in the way of doing your best to heal that hurt.
*Honestly, I’d advise church members to pursue the quiet people. Instead of only hanging out with your friends, make sure there is no one sitting alone. I understand that means getting out of your own comfort zone, but most the people who hurt me were known for reaching out to complete strangers. We would get knew kids all the time after me, who they’d force to get to know. And in time, they were one of them. I’d also say to stop picking favorites! There’s more to a certain group of people than the big faces that represent it. The little people have things to share and want to feel like they are important and belong.
*I know someone claiming abuse is a tricky situation. I see churches today that refuse to acknowledge anything as abuse because they think “everything” is considered abuse nowadays. But they failed me in several areas. 1) They didn’t go to my father directly. They didn’t ask for his side of the story. They didn’t talk to us kids to see what we had to say or if we supported what was being asserted. There are always two sides. I don’t argue that my father was abusive, but my mother wasn’t looking for help or protection for me or my sisters; she wanted sympathy and attention for herself (he never abused her, only me—unless I wasn’t there, then he might go after one of my sisters).
2) The pastor never should have listed my father’s sins to the congregation. It’d be one thing if the pastor had followed the Biblical example of confronting the person directly one-on-one, and then with witnesses, and then needed to bring it to the congregation because the person refused to change and they were going to be asked to leave…but it wasn’t done like that. My father was never confronted one-on-one or with witnesses. They waited for a day he wasn’t at church to humiliate him, and then he returned and found nothing but judgment. No one made room made for repentance. No one came alongside him to help him. The primary motivation for correction should always be love. No exceptions. The church needs to learn how to show love to both sides of the situation, while helping them. Not just pick sides and heap judgment on one head.
*Stop judging everyone without knowing what they are really going through. Christians are way too judgmental of each other and non Christians. We are supposed to love—not condemn each other.
*Only God can help through His word and praying. Maybe talk to those involved.
*Listen. There are people in the congregation who are hurting. Some of them are giving verbal signs that they want help. However, not all of them are using verbal cues for help like I did. Listen to all of those people and to God. Don’t let brothers or sisters fall through the cracks. A friend of mine was killed during a marital disagreement. Members of her church were aware that she was in a bad situation, but nobody did anything.
*Avoid politics and manipulation, and don’t misuse sincere volunteers. Allow people to take care of their family and themselves without guilt. Don’t treat people like they are replaceable. Exercise unconditional love.
*There is power in prayer and forgiveness. Do not let the hurt rule your life. God granted us forgiveness so we can move on.
*I would tell people to have a strong walk with God, love people, including their leaders. But don’t settle into the “club”. The Lord will walk this life with you, speak to you, guide and lead you. Pastors and other leaders are important, but our trust is in Jesus, not them.
*Be more open and slow to judge.
*Drop walls, stop talking about how big “your” ministry is, and listen. The church exists to serve, not to find servers to serve you (the leadership) and your ministries so you can parade your success. The church is not a business, it is a family—relationship is what matters, not statistics!
*Don’t butt into other people’s lives unless they ask or unless they are doing some one else harm. Just because you have a certain belief in the way Christians should behave, if an activity is not indecent, immoral, or illegal, then keep your opinions to yourself.
*I would advise people not to be active in any business activities of the church—don’t be a board member or get close to the pastor.
*Reach out to those are hurting and going through bad times immediately. Don’t be judgmental, just show love and listen.
*Love God and love others.
*Talk to the person if you have a problem, and don’t gossip. Forgive others.
*Know that God is perfect and holy and the devil uses imperfect people to get at your weaknesses. We knew God wanted us out of that church, and are thankful that we were able to leave before it became ugly.
*I’m unsure because I’m presently trying to heal.
*Pray for the Pastor, the staff, the Sunday school teachers, and the choir. Pray, pray, pray! Study the Word. Commit your life day by day to the Lord and his will for you that day. Hurts will come. Christians are not perfect. And not all church members have committed their life to the Lord Jesus. They are committed to the choir, or a place of service, but not to the Lord’s will.
*I advise prevention—no gossip, have accountability for the pastor and the lay leadership
*I really don’t have any advice to give. I don’t really thing there is any way to prevent hurt.
*Take time to really care about your fellow brother and sister in Christ. Take time to get to really know them because you can’t know what someone is experiencing in their lives otherwise. Love one another. Don’t kick your wounded.
*Try to understand the other person’s feelings and work out an option workable for both sides.
*Treat others the way you want to be treated if you were in their situation. Always love others the way God does.
*To prevent hurt—practice church discipline as laid out in the Bible. I don’t know why it wasn’t used in my situation.
*Healing—forgiveness is the answer, but hard to accomplish.
*Criticism could be given with love, not behind the scenes and behind the person’s back. Facts should be presented openly on the table, before using information against someone.
*Communication. Biblical, loving communication would prevent things like this from happening 100 percent of the time. Pastors should never have only “yes” men in their inner circle. They should remember that their staff sacrifices so much, usually far more than time and money. Cheerleading us will make us stay on your team forever. Browbeating us, chewing us up, and spitting us out when you’re done without so much as a thank you . . . that burns out even the best staffers.
*Listen, be available. The sin of the church is their business with their own families and no time for those with no family. I spent many many holidays alone, including Christmas. Not one invite.
*Be careful of the assumptions you make regarding other people’s decisions when you do not know the private lives of the people involved. Don’t assume the worst. Don’t take people to task when you don’t know the details. You may just be hurting someone who is already in pain.
*Maybe treat people like human beings—make the church a body of believers and stop treating it like it’s a business.
*Team leadership with outside friendships. Our entire leadership team was being manipulated and abused. We had been cut off from any outside mentors who could have helped.
*Good question. I honestly don’t have an answer to that.
*Stay next to God. I am working on laying down this pain, but the experience touched every part of our lives since my husband lost his job as a result of the actions of others. Pain covered our finances, our emotions, our physical location, our friendships, and our church family. Just horrid all over.
*Let the congregation decide.
*Domestic violence is not the victim’s fault, and the perpetrator must do a lot more than just apologize. I would advise church leaders to become educated about the cycle of power and control and to be committed to protecting victims, not covering up for or excusing perpetrators.
*Be more understanding, pray for your Pastor, and love his children. They need your love.
*Insist pastors and church leaders have the courage to confront sin and conflict even if it means making a good tither mad.
*Not sure, maybe treat others as you would like to be treated.
*Leaders should try to communicate the lines of authority more clearly.
*Listen. Don’t assume the spouses that left are the “bad seed.” Don’t treat the remaining spouses like gold. Don’t treat the kids of the guy whom left like gold and the kids of the woman that left like crap. Address all the sins in the church, not just the ones that you make an example of.
*Avoid rigidity, consider others’ point of view, educate yourselves, and learn how to show compassion.
*Remember ‘the greatest of these is love,’ model it, require it of staff, don’t encourage cliques. A very tall order! This all was many years ago, long forgiven, but was very hurtful at the time.
*Be compassionate and try to be understanding. Lend a listening ear. We don’t expect you to have an answer for what only God can do. Be the kind of loving friend you would want in a similar situation. Stay in touch. Do what Jesus did—reach out and pray for the person.
*Not sure it’s my place to advise.
*Be very aware of the children (teens included) exposed to the situation. All people in any form of ministry leadership need to be extremely careful how their words and actions affect the kids. Healing does not happen when people are not willing to talk. Using one’s spiritual authority and power against others is a prescription for disaster. Pastors do not supercede parents in their authority over children. Everyone should practice Matthew chapter 18. I’m not sure the hurt will ever stop for both my son and daughter; it has affected their spiritual growth immensely and shaken their faith very deeply.
*Be open and honest in love. So much hurt comes from dishonesty and fear of confrontation.
*I’m not sure–honest communication is key.
*Check in with people and see how they’re doing, etc.
*Listen to your gut. I suspected something was going on, but I wasn’t brave enough to confront him. I’m not saying everyone should go crazy and confront people, but pray, listen to your intuition, and learn how to confront someone with love.
*We need to be less legalistic and more loving. Our eyes need to be on Jesus and not on the faults/sins of others.
*Most likely I need to develop a thicker skin and not be so easily offended.
*You are going to be hurt as long as people are in the church. People hurt people. It is part of life. Don’t let your joy be found in people, find it in the Lord.
*Assure those who were once friends that you still love and pray for them. Don’t impute evil motives to those who disagree with you. Pray for opportunities to have non-confrontative visits with them.
*Recognize selfish ambition in leaders as an insidious evil and a primary cause for church splits. Rarely are the issues being presented the real cause. Don’t buy into stories told after a crisis if they don’t add up or your heart tells you something’s not right. Also, if you have to choose sides, go with the one demonstrating the most fruit, not the one with the most polished explanation.
*Speak the truth in love and follow the scripture about how to deal with a grievance.
*Pastors should only pastor, not try to run the church as a dictator and micro-manage areas they have no knowledge of. Church bodies should not put pastors on a pedestal; they are human and they make mistakes
*Accept people where they are, but don’t base your acceptance on finances, social position, or talents.
*Open up the secrets. Speak the truth in love. If you know sin exists in the leadership of the church, don’t hide it and try to pawn that leader off on some other unsuspecting church. Deal with the sin biblically and honestly in your own church. Follow the biblical prescription of church discipline and reconciliation. Show some courage and backbone. Confront the tough issues honestly and fearlessly. Don’t make scapegoats of those who are trying to uncover the truth and bring about healing and restoration. Don’t shoot the messenger.
*Value lay leadership. Ask, what do you need to be successful (at ministry, for those who are volunteering) rather than treating volunteers like minions or interlopers. But this is for my situation. In general, I would tell people to see others as flawed humans and allow the Holy Spirit to work on them. Don’t feel it’s your job to fix or correct everyone’s behavior so it meets your personal standards.
*Talk to people face-to-face. Don’t do things in a behind-the-back manner.
*Do not sweep things under the rug. They only get bigger.
*Respect intuitive individuals. Don’t discount someone because they are not who you are. Give up judging others in a way that says, “I have all of these bearings/moorings because of my upbringing and choices. Too bad you didn’t have what I had in life.” Instead, acknowledge we are all beggars and are in need of redemption. We all have the potential to commit the worst of sins. Renounce pride and walk in humility with all people. If someone stumbles, restore them in love and humility and be careful least you be ensnared.
*When I showed the letter that cancelled our domestic violence ministry to my 17 year old daughter, she stated simply, “Mom, don’t you know our church is just a big business . . . all they care about is their money.” This coming from such a young person. I was shocked but realized she was right. Our church’s greatest asset should be it’s people and their well-being. I realize all churches must meet their bills, but my former pastor lives in a huge house on a hill; no wonder he is worried about a lawsuit instead of the women who are being abused and fear for their lives and the lives of their children. What a shame.
*Operate with tolerance and gentleness. Not judgment!
*Those who manipulate God’s Word to their own ends will be judged.
*Honestly and openly communicate. Don’t make false accusations.
*No matter how much you care about someone, placing them under your control is a mistake.
*I think that ages twelve and up should be welcome in most adult classes. What an opportunity to mentor a young person, be Titus 2 for them, set good examples of maturity.
*Be less caught up in the church culture and more real.
*Everyone expects all ministers to be accountable to the senior pastor, but somehow expect the senior pastor to be accountable to no one. I believe many denominations avoid the issue of accountability with senior pastors, and that often people are more willing to listen to whoever is older, not necessarily wiser, and this is unfortunate.
*I am not sure you can prevent hurt here on earth! Healing is facing the issue, steps of faith to confront the people, lots of prayer, support, no gossiping, treat others with deep respect and grace and understanding.
*Communicate and trust leaders even if they are not the paid leaders. Meet together and not in separate individual meetings.
*Walk in God’s love. It keeps you from being touchy.
*Be sure to follow up when someone is in need.
*Communication is key and truth. I was chosen by a panel of five people for a position and then eliminated by the worship leader. Be upfront if you have to be a certain age or hair color or body type then let people know. (Yes, I know this is discrimination).
*Strictly teach, learn, and apply the guidelines God has given us in the Bible.
*Pay attention…make sure published information is correct and don’t let wounded soldiers be in the position of having to ask to be carried off the field.
*Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. If the church would walk this out and not allow backbiting or gossip, many problems in the church would take care of themselves. When I asked the pastors why they allowed someone to go behind my back to talk about me, they said Matt 18:15-17 only happens in a perfect world. They won’t even teach this from the pulpit.
*Use your heart, not your head, when it comes to sensitive issues. This was obviously a board-run church, and the pastor hadn’t been told about the decision. I think things need to be prayed about . . .
*Everyone needs accountability. Sometimes a leader with no accountability can let his position go to his head and seriously abuse his power by fulfilling his own personal desires . . . even at the expense of others.
*We are all sinners saved by grace in the sight of God regardless of position within the body.
*A church pastor needs to be a man of God that knows the truth and actually walk in it; correct those who need correction, and stop being a people pleaser, but be a truth deliverer.
*Take holiness and sanctification seriously in your personal relationship with the Lord, remembering that we cannot love with His love unless we’re staying closely attuned to Him and His willingness to help us see our particular circumstances through His eyes and His leadership.
*Don’t use the excuse that lack of intent to hurt equals freedom from responsibility for the damage. For me, having people in a leadership position tell me that since my counselor had not intended to hurt me, my pain was my choice and my own fault, hurt worse than the initial situation. In the end I felt betrayed and abandoned.
*Confront your mistakes. Don’t sweep them under the rug to save face. It is very hurtful.
*Deal with sin issues immediately. Three or four of you need to go to the Pastor together. Make him and his family be accountable too. He basically covered up a situation and pretended his sons did nothing.
*Tell the truth. Confront sin.
*Be more discerning of who is placed in leadership within a church. Develop a network where it is safe for pastors to share with others in ministry, a supportive community much like Calvin’s Company of Pastors.
*Simple kindness would have gone a long way in my situation. Do not gossip. That includes not listening to gossip. Stop the spread of gossip by doing this: if someone comes to you with gossip, immediately walk them over to the one accused and say, “So and So has this concern. What do you say about it?” Or immediately stop the comment by saying that you don’t listen to gossip and they should speak to the person involved, not to you. Seek to build one another up in the Lord: “Submit yourselves one to another.” (Eph. 5:21) Also, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17) Realize that even if you do everything right on your part, there will always be hurt as long as people refuse to yield to the Holy Spirit and obey God’s Word. Keep a clear conscience before God so that you are not guilty of anything yourself, and always pray for your enemies. “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:28) Then do not allow bitterness to grow in your heart. (Hebrews 12:15)
*Stop elevating pastoral leadership to celebrity/God levels. Eliminate the prosperity gospel. Use scriptural discipline without partiality or favoritism when sin happens—otherwise, the offender’s soul cannot be healed, either.
*No church is perfect, no pastor is perfect, we are all human. We should all try to be more forgiving of mistakes, give more grace, encourage more, listen more (really listen), do more for our brothers and sisters in Christ without expecting anything in return, don’t put too high of expectation on one another, and take the board from our own eyes. It seems to me I’ve received more love and forgiveness from people outside the church than within.
*I don’t think all hurt can be prevented because I believe that God takes us through our personal journeys for his reasons, beyond any dimension we will ever understand in our mortal state. I think the Church can help to heal hurt, though, by reminding us that we are all the same in God’s eyes. All wrongs are wrong, all sins are sins. God does not have a grading scale – I would like to hear more pastors address the congregation with the “we” word instead of the “you” word. My pastor often says, “You need to hear this!” It’s somewhat condescending.
*Follow Christ’s own words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” If the church truly followed this simple instruction and gave of itself to others, we’d see a lot less pain and suffering. That, and acknowledging that we are all sinners – it’s difficult to point at others when submitting to the humbling experience of knowing you are in the wrong yourself.
*Hold each other accountable, and especially strive to remove the opportunity of Satan to sneak up in issues of this nature.
*I wish I had the answers to this, maybe then things wouldn’t have gone the way they did in my life.
*To stop focusing on self and seek the Lord’s interest in the church first. There is so much practicality in the Bible about how the church is to work together as a unit. If we take the time to understand each other and where the other one is spiritually, trying to edify and build up, so many of our problems would disappear. Each member must focus on Christ and strive to be more like Him.
*We tend to shoot our own wounded. That needs to change. We can also believe the worst without searching for the truth. We need the grace to listen and not pass judgment before we decide.
*Having educated leaders and lay people who understand the many facets of humans mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and can guide members with sound advice would be helpful. Just because you read the New Testament and have a Bible degree doesn’t make you fit to advise others in all areas of life. It was my fault also for being naive and trusting. I found professional legal, medical, and psychological help and got out of that marriage. I have no relationship with anyone still in that church. I never lost my faith in God, but I have walked circumspectly around leadership ever since. I am healthy, spiritually mature, and able to speak to others in a manner that helps them. No condemnation, no rose colored glasses.
*The church is not the center of the universe. Christ is.
*Practice what you preach!
*Pastors, don’t get so wrapped up in the mission of this church you’ve built here on earth that you forget the mission of the Church with a capital C. Also, pride is a very dangerous thing. Because you’ve been called to leadership within the church does not mean that you are on an elevated plane of existence. It means you have been called to serve, as we all have been. Every Christian should strive to love one another as the Father loves us, unconditionally and with a servant’s heart.
*Make sure you are right in what has been done and if not, ask for forgiveness from the person or persons involved.
*Focus on the hurting person without judging them or the situation because they will never know everything about it. Don’t focus on how it will affect them or the ministry—the person is trying to survive, close to death to end the pain and the overwhelming burden placed on them to think about how their actions are affecting others and the ministry.
*Understand the grace of God and stop trying to control people. There’s a lot of power-mongering in the church, and this is what pushes people away. Church should be a safe place, not a place where you risk hurt. This attitude starts with the pastor and trickles down.
*Love without judging. People react to pain different ways. I have divorced friends who were mad at God, and thus chose to do things they knew were against his law. They could tell me about it, because they knew I would listen without judging—who am I to yell at them for finding comfort in someone’s arms? I totally understand body hunger, and have fallen prey to it myself, usually with females (oh look—more things I would never tell my old church!). If I’ve learned anything in my 53 years on this planet, it’s that God loves me no matter what, and that no matter where I go, he’ll be there. If it’s true for me, it’s true for everyone else. But the church is afraid of rejection (by God?) and thus tries to avoid contact with “sinners,” even as they recite the mantra that we have all sinned. If they would just get off their high horses and admit to being human and imperfect, it would make a huge difference. If churches were like AA meetings, they’d be jam packed.
Continuing that thought—if we would just accept people for who they are, no matter what they look like, sound like, or what music they listen to, what person they love, there’d be a lot less hurt. I truly think there’s a way to do that while still upholding standards of behavior. We have got to get away from playing the shame game, away from only liking people who look/act/think like us (I’m preaching to me, now), away from thinking we have to be God’s big sister or big brother, and protect him from the people who are doing wrong. We’re supposed to be known by our love, but too often we’re recognized by our judgment or our hypocrisy.
End of rant. Thanks for listening
*Trust God, seek godly counsel, do not take offense, be quick to forgive.
*Ask about the situation first!