Help!!! I Work For A Bad Church Leader?

“If you are not bleeding, you are not leading.” – Chris Sonksen

I hate that quote.

It’s 100% correct, but I hate it with a fiery passion.

I’d like it a lot better if it said, “If you are not loved by everyone like pizza then you are not leading.”

That would be a more likable quote, but it would be wrong.

The truth is you are not pizza. I’m not pizza. If you have a boss, then he/she is not pizza. Everyone loves pizza. Sometimes I wish I was pizza.

Pizza offers so many options. Thin crust, pan crust, or hand tossed crust. Veggie or meat lovers. No matter what your palette you can find a pizza that fits your tastes. My dad always says,

“Rob has never met a pizza he didn’t like.” – Bob Shepherd.

I’ve never had a boss that was like pizza. As a boss, I’ve never had employees that liked me like pizza.

It’s been a minute since I graduated from seminary, but as much as I loved my school it did not prepare me for leading in the church world.

Before I was the Lead Pastor I had some thoughts on what I would do if I was ever in charge. My schedule was always very strict and tied to the office so when I became a boss I would offer a more flexible schedule. I had served under Type A leaders. I decided I was going to be a Type C leader. I’m not sure what a Type C leader is but it’s way more laid back than a Type A leader.

I loved my time as a staff member, but now as a boss I was going to do things differently. My staff wouldn’t fear me, they would love me.


What I found is that no matter what I did someone would always be unhappy with me as the boss. I’m too flexible. I show too much grace. I’m too laid back except when I’m not laid back enough. The issue that I found was that no matter what style of boss I was someone would not like a decision I made simply because I’m the boss.

Now, if you are here because you work for a bad leader this probably is not what you were looking for. Hold on. I’m getting to what to do.

Humans do not like to be told what to do. Humans don’t like having limits put on them. Humans are naturally selfish. That makes having a boss incredibly difficult. Add to that the fact that most pastors went to school to learn theology and not leadership and you have the recipe for a very dysfunctional church staff.

It’s tough being a boss. I wish I could go back in time and be a staff member for my previous bosses now that I’ve been in their shoes.

And that leads to what you should do if you work for a horrible church leader.

What To Do When You Work For A Bad Church Leader?

1. Have An Honest Gut Check.

If you have a boss that you feel is a bad leader the first thing you must do is check yourself. You should consider leaving right away if A. Your church leader is doing something immoral. B. Your church leader is physically harming you. C. Your church leader is verbally abusive to you or others.

Right out of seminary a friend of mine went to work for a boss who had a temper. We all lose our cool, but this pastor would cuss out people on the basketball court. Not only that but he made inappropriate comments about my friend’s wife. My friend wanted to be loyal. He had multiple conversations with his pastor, and the pastor was prideful and didn’t want to listen. I strongly encouraged him to leave right away.

If you answered yes to any or multiple of those options then the answer is simple. Leave. God is big enough to take care of you and the church. No pastor is perfect, but if there are major sin issues then it’s okay to leave.

The issue is that most church leaders aren’t the epitome of evil.

According to a Gallup poll, “75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself.”

That stat is alarming, but what is not seen is the reason they left because of the boss. Not everyone is called to lead. It’s difficult. Your church leader is not perfect, but before you leave you need to make sure you are great at following.

I love the insight Jimmy Collins shares in his book, Creative Followership. Collins writes, “Do you desire a satisfying career with opportunities for advancement in the future? The first step is to identify what the boss does not like to do. The second step is to find a way to do what the boss does not like to do, and exceed expectations. you will learn a lot about people, and a lot about yourself, in the process.”

He goes on to write, “A follower is someone who has chosen a leader.”

Instead of picking job pick a boss. Find someone that you can follow. Take the vision they have and make it better. This doesn’t mean that the boss is perfect, but way too many employees would fire themselves if they were their own boss. Translation, we want amazing bosses that do everything, but we often put in little effort, complain, and fail to do tasks with excellence.

If you don’t have a vision for a company, a product, or even a church then find a leader worth following and do it with amazing excellence. You will be happier, and go further behind a leader with a vision than you will on your own. Not everyone can lead. If everyone did lead we would all be going in different directions. If you are not the leader I highly recommend reading Creative Followership by Jimmy Collins.

If you are frustrated with your church leader there are a few things you need to do.

  • Decide if it’s because you didn’t get your way or if it’s because it’s not the best decision. It’s tough to decipher. Often we get married to our own ideas. Afterward we see the other idea worked. What we often get upset at is not getting our own way. At some point a boss will make a decision that you don’t like. Can you handle that? If not then either become a church leader yourself or understand that you will continually have problems with authority.
  • Pray for you church leader. There is a spiritual enemy that wants nothing more than to distract church staff with fighting amongst themselves.
  • Check your expectations. The majority of relationships go wrong because of unmet or unrealistic expectations. Have you ever expressed your expectations to your boss? Are your expectations realistic? No boss is perfect. There is a chance that your expectations have to shift in order for you to support your church leader. If you are expecting a church leader who is gifted with vision to also be amazing with systems/details you will continually be disappointed and frustrated.
  • Talk to the church leader and not about him. Matthew 18 is not a suggestion. Jesus gave us the way to handle conflicts within the church.
  • Seek God to see if the frustration is coming from a place of holy discontent. Holy discontent happens when God has been leading you to new territory but for various reasons (mostly fear) you stay. When God starts to birth a new vision inside of you it often comes with discontent for the current vision. If you have a different vision than your church leader than you need to go do what God is calling you to do, and support the vision God gave your church leader on your way out.

2. Be Loyal.

You can change church leaders. You can move on. If you do end up moving on you want to make sure you are not leaving a pile of negativity with the people who are left.

Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Matthew 12:36.

God has a lot to say about honoring authority. Your boss may be the pastoral equivalent of Michael Scott from the TV show The Office, but that doesn’t change how you are to honor him.

As a church leader yourself you are to control your tongue.

Way too many church staff make a stink about a pastor and then leave the church to clean up the mess. That’s immature and irresponsible. You don’t have to agree with every decision. If it’s not immoral, unbiblical, or against your convictions then you need to honor the leader God has you under.

3. Become Part Of The Solution.

If you are not part of the solution then you become part of the problem.

It’s so easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and critique NFL players after a bad game. Seeing the faults in others is easier than seeing the ones we have.

When (not if…when) there are issues make sure you do the hard work to offer potential solutions.

As a church leader I welcome potential solutions from a humble person. It shows that you are bought in and willing to make things better. Anyone can point out flaws, but it takes a true leader to come up with solutions.

4. Pray For The Church Leader.

This was mentioned early in the post, but it’s so important. It is easy to become bitter. It’s very difficult to become bitter when we are committed to praying for the person we disagree with. You cannot control other people, but you must control yourself. Working with or for anyone is difficult. It takes the grace of God.

What if you prayed for your church leader as much as you complained about him?

What if you prayed for your church leader as much as you complained about him? Click To Tweet

If you aren’t praying for them you are operating out of your own strength. That’s dangerous ground to walk on.

5. Find A New Job.

If you’ve tried everything and you just cannot support the church leader than it’s time to leave. Leave with grace. Leave the church better than when you found it.

As Chris Sonksen so eloquently says,

“If you can’t support a church leader stop taking a pay check and go somewhere else.”

It’s not fair to you or him. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Go find a boss with a vision you can fully support or maybe it’s time for you to become the boss.

Hell is too hot, our work is too important, and time is too short to continually working for a church leader you cannot support. If God hasn’t changed your heart, and attitude then it is time to leave. Just make sure you leave well. Who knows, one day you may be the church leader and if that happens you want to make sure you were a great example to everyone who watched you transition.

None of this is easy. People are difficult. Working at a church isn’t easy. With grace, some discipline, and the power of the Holy Spirit we can truly find church leaders that we love working with.

What would you add to this post? Who is the best leader you have ever served with? What made him/her so amazing to work for?


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