A pastor gives advice on chasing off pastors

By Chris Shoemaker, Special Contributor…

Chris Shoemaker

In my 25 years as a United Methodist (16 as a pastor), I have come to realize that in every church there are at least a few laity who just cannot stand their minister. Maybe you are one of them. Perhaps you disagree with his or her theology. Or, you do not see eye to eye on issues of mission and/or evangelism. Maybe you just cannot bear to hear another of his or her sermons. No matter the reason, you want your pastor GONE.

Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Today, I will teach you how to get rid of your pastor.

To begin, you need to understand your ultimate goal. Your goal is to have the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) vote out your minister. This is also your toughest obstacle, because the SPRC exists in part to protect your minister from exactly what you’re about to do. The key to victory lies in understanding just how difficult serving on the SPRC can be.

Serving on the SPRC can be the toughest job in the church. It’s not for everybody. The reason it’s such a difficult job is that constructively supporting and encouraging your pastor can put you at odds with your friends, families and even spouses.

Once you understand this, your approach is clear: While you can address SPRC members directly, it is much more effective to turn the members’ friends and families. If you can place SPRC members between supporting their minister or damaging relationships with their family or friends, your preacher will be packing soon!

I once heard a layperson say: “Blood’s thicker than water—and a preacher ain’t even water.”

The most effective way to turn people against your minister is to link the preacher’s traits and personality to the problems and weaknesses in the church—even if the pastor has nothing to do with it. Instead of saying “If Pastor So-and-So’s sermons were better, more visitors would come to our church,” try “Don’t you think Pastor So-and-So is too quiet? If our church wants to grow, we’ll need a preacher with a stronger voice.” We all know that feuding families or cliques can rip a church apart. However . . . “If Pastor So-and-So was better at understanding people, she could stop the fighting and unite our church.”

See what I mean? “Assassinating” clergy takes a subtle touch and the right blend of lies. Bold, direct attacks are always an option, but are usually risky as they can be polarizing. Such attacks are best saved for the coup de grâce, if necessary.

Perception and reality

Another helpful tip is never to say “I.” Don’t let anyone know that your opinions of your pastor are yours alone. “People are saying” or “There’s talk going around” are effective. At the least, always say “we,” even if it’s just you.

This is important: It does not take an army to get rid of a pastor, just the perception of an army. An SPRC Chair once told me “perception IS reality.” You want people to wonder who’s unhappy with the minister—and how many there are. While they are wondering just who is unhappy, their minds will tend to automatically lean toward the worst-case scenario—the more financially powerful church members. This brings me to my next point.

In the church, money doesn’t talk—it SCREAMS. Of course the less financially stable your church is, the louder that screaming will be. This brings us back to the SPRC. While this committee is supposed to support and protect the pastor, many SPRCs see themselves as HR Committees—with the primary job of protecting the corporation (the church). If the presence of your pastor is seen as a financial danger, you’ll be welcoming a new pastor.

If you are fortunate enough to have the financial pull yourself, just use it. I know of a church that “fired” an award-winning volunteer because one family controlled 30 percent of the church’s income. At a board meeting, this family openly threatened to withhold their tithe until the volunteer was gone. The treasurer quickly concluded that the church would go bankrupt within six months, so the innocent volunteer was removed at that very meeting.

If enough money stands opposed to your pastor, or the SPRC perceives that enough money stands opposed, chances are good that your minister just became a real problem. If a church is forced to choose between its bank account and its pastor, the pastor usually loses.

Of course, if your church has a prayerful, careful SPRC that works together to separate fact from fiction and perception from reality, deeply cares for the pastor and his or her ministry, and realizes that God is the true provider for the church, all of the above is useless. Good luck!

 

The Rev. Shoemaker is pastor of Cuthbert UMC in Cuthbert, Ga. Contact him at  revshoemaker@gmail.com

 

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21 Comments on "A pastor gives advice on chasing off pastors"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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dorothy
Guest
I can't read this without providing another perspective– How to kill a congregation: 1. Take a vital, gifted, caring pastor out of a medium sized church paying 100% of apportionments to replace a worn-out, lazy, canned-sermon preaching televangelist wannabe in a very large, very wealthy church. 2. Send the worn-out, lazy, canned-sermon preaching televangelist wannabe to the struggling, but spiritually alive medium sized church. 3. Turn a deaf ear to all issues raised by the medium sized church, while the "pastor" coasts into retirement. 4. Repeat every time the pastor retires. Poof! No church! But it's ok, the wealthy church… Read more »
Sherrie
Guest

You Nailed It!

Blessings,
S.

lmshaffer
Guest

This is very sad as well.

Rev Dr Peter Vermeulen
Guest
A painful read. Read most of follow up comments. I have been on both ends a pastor and parishioner. We in the Methodist Church are not supposed to vote the pastor to stay or go no more than we vote if some one can join the church. That is a congregational approach. The church (SPRC) needs to sit with the pastor and see if his or her gifts and graces can help the church grow healthy ways. If not then change is needed. Many pastors and church’s are hurt in this process and need time to heal before the next… Read more »
veryconcerned
Guest
I appreciate the information in your article and the spirit in which it was written, however, as a member of a UM church that is suffering, I offer my thoughts on this and ask for advice or information on how situations should be handled. In our specific case, our pastor is minimally involved in the ministries of our church, whether it be through our kids' program on Wednesday nights, our middle school or high school youth groups or even our adult education opportunities. She provides the sermons on Sunday and attends some of the meetings, but that is about it.… Read more »
concernedmember
Guest

Ok having just had this happen with our pastor, how might we as concered members save our pastor? Our sprc voted 6-5 on removing our pastor. I understand it now has to go before the ds and then the bishop who would ultimalty have the final say. How might we as a congregation help the move to save our pastor?

gracedone
Guest
What would be a good reason then for getting rid of the pastor? Would it be enough that he never visits the shut-ins and hospitalized? Would it be enough that he can't preach a lick? Does any of that matter to the Bishop? I asked a pastor at conference one time if he was moving that year and he replied that he had gone as high as he could go, there was nowhere else to go. I wondered if God knew about that. I believe that pastors are appointed according to favoritism and who you know. The very idea that… Read more »
revolutioncalling
Guest
gracedone, you are correct in your assessment that our appointment system is flawed with respect to seniority and salary. One of the greatest 'clergy killers' I know of is when our conferences send bright, vibrant, enthusiastic young clergy into churches that have no desire to grow, change, or fulfill the biblical mission of the church. These clergy can experience a very quick burn-out. We have to keep in mind that the UMC, just like any other denomination, is an institution. Therefore, it's principle motivation for everything it does is self-preservation. Look at which pastors serve and/or chair key conference boards… Read more »
riddlegroup
Guest

and for goodness sakes remember perception is reality. the reality the pastor perceives is only true if it's my reality.

gracedone
Guest
Real church member comments. 1. After the pastor has been there two years, "My name is John, George is my brother." 2. Thank you for asking about my mother pastor, but she died two weeks ago. 3. I was surprised that you didn't come when I had surgery after I placed my name on the prayer list, would you like to know how I'm doing? 4. No, I haven't been on the Finance Committee for several years, you must be thinking about someone else. Those are not satire, they are real. You make it sound as if church members are… Read more »
j4981
Guest

Agree

lmshaffer
Guest

People make mistakes. All of us. Pastors are not perfect. Church members are not perfect. If someone hurts you, you should talk to them about it. You should forgive them and pray for them. What would Jesus do? I do not think he would tell lies and spread rumors. It is one thing if someone is not doing their job, it is another thing if you just don't like them or you disagree with them.

revshoemaker
Guest

I very intentionally chose a satirical tone to illuminate a real and serious issue. The "tag" at the end isn't a "cover up"…it's the point. Sadly, this type of manipulation happens more than we'd like to believe. My goal is to expose some of the methods of manipulation that are often used to damage pastors and churches. This is part of the "dark side" of church that no one wants to talk about. We need to talk about it, and fix it.

riddlegroup
Guest
Chris – I say this with respect. don't give up your mission work. this isn't really satire. this is simply stating reality with a bad twist at the end. if you really wanted to go for satire with you need to include a few elements. 1. extremity. you took the viewpoint which opposes yours, that's a nice start. but you didn't take it to the extreme, nonsensical end. 2. Humor. it just wasn't funny. Good satire is both. So. In case you want to write another post about firing pastors here are a few ideas: I'll start with your original… Read more »
kairostorch
Guest
So, are you leaving this year? Or were you on the PPR committee before you became a clergy person? You seem to know a lot about it. If church members won't stand up for you, would you think you shoud stay? Why, to teach them a lesson? To prove your worth? Where is your DS in this situation? I'm a lay person. I'm a Supply Pastor. Now, that's a really odd combo. But Jesus told us it wouldn't be easy. It's not, is it? But hey, we can quit anytime. Peace!
revshoemaker
Guest

The situations described in my article, while all true, are a combination of different pastors (and a volunteer) and different churches over several years. Some I've seen personally, some are the stories of others I know and trust.

I am leaving my current church, but to transition into full time mission work.

Blessings,
Chris

disneysax
Guest

Dear Rev. Shoemaker,
I am not sure of the reason for your article, or for the reason the UM Reporter would publish it. The whole article seems to be be trying to make putting down of the laity funny. Humor at someone'sexpense is not funny and is in fact painful. Of course your tag at the end, like many put down jokes, triess to cover up the mean spiritedness of the rest of the article.
I'm saddened when we in the church become as mean spirited as the rest of the world.

revolutioncalling
Guest
Rev. Shoemaker wasn't trying to put the laity down, or make it seem like it's a fun thing to do. He brought to light a very serious, very damaging issue within our churches. I know whereof he speaks because I've been on the receiving end of every single thing he mentioned. While there may be some disagreement with the way in which he chose to present his thoughts, we cannot ignore the truth: nearly every church has a small contingent of bitter, disgruntled, mean-spirited people who only want their own way, and don't care how many pastors they have to… Read more »
lmshaffer
Guest

I agree with revolutioncalling. This is a very serious problem in UM churches. This hurts our church and our congregation. As someone who has experienced this a few times, our paritioners need to know about this and understand it.

revolutioncalling
Guest
The ugly truth is that Rev. Shoemaker is absolutely correct. While the majority of laity in churches love, like or at least genially tolerate their pastor, there are those who are determine–and experienced–clergy killers. Until these bullies are held accountable for the behaviors that harm pastors, families, and churches, we will continue to have wounded clergy, divided congregations, and ineffective churches. The vast majority of people I have served with in my 12 years in ministry have been wonderful and Godly. However, in each of my appointments there have been a small contingent–usually about 8-12–who simply do not want to… Read more »
lmshaffer
Guest

I have seen this too and have also heard it from others. Luckily, in the past, the disgruntled moved somewhere else and did not bring down the church. I have not had to actually witness a church that I was involved in close. I have heard of it happening and very recently. Most of the churches in my neighborhood have closed or are very near closure. It seems viewed as somewhat of a social club instead of God's house. Some not wanting to serve but be served.

wpDiscuz
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