Tag Archives: pastor

Seven Steps to Confronting Toxic Church People

So how do you confront “that guy?” (see my previous post). Let me outline one approach.

Seven Steps To Confronting Toxic Church People

toxic church people1. Assess their health. As I said in my previous post, the first step is to understand where this person is coming from. You have to discern if this person is emotionally and spiritually healthy. Are they credible? Often not. Please read yesterday’s post to understand the shame factor and how it drives people’s motives. Don’t get sucked into their vortex. If they aren’t reasonable they have needs they are trying to meet that reason can’t solve.

2. Seek the Truth.  Before you dismiss their complaint or issue, ask God if there is any shred of truth to what they are saying. Not every mouthpiece for God is pure (myself included). There can be mixed motives. So I want to humbly be open to what I might learn from what the person has to say, even if it seems extreme at first. Can you strip the message from the messenger and find any truth?

3. Engage.  If your assessment is that they are toxic (and not just having a bad day) move to contain their toxin. I like the adage from Bill Hybel’s: If something feels funky, engage. We tend to walk away from toxic people hoping they’ll just go away.. Most likely they won’t. Their agenda is bigger than you imagine.. So move toward the person ti contain the toxin. .

If something feels funky, engage. Bill Hybels

4. Take it offline. Toxic people are looking for an audience. They will typically find an audience in a class, business meeting, through social media, or in the church lobby. Some people incessantly ask questions or offer comments that bog down classes or meetings. Other people camp out in the lobby and pick people off one at a time with their agenda. Tell them that you are happy to discuss their issue where you can give them your full attention. If they launch into a diatribe, interrupt them. It’s not rude. THEY are rude. People are looking to YOU to DO SOMETHING. They will appreciate you taking leadership. By taking it offline you deny them their audience.

Other people lob grenades through emails, Facebook, and blogs. If these are impacting your church, you need to talk to them about stopping. Just because it’s online, doesn’t give them free access. It might not make them cease and desist but you need to speak to it and possibly alert others in your church that what is being spoken is unhelpful. This gets dicey, so discretion and wise counsel is needed.

5. Set boundaries. Just because you take it offline doesn’t mean they can dominate your time. Give them 30 minutes, or whatever amount of time you think is appropriate. Discuss their issue. Listen. Affirm what you can. State your differences. And then thank them for voicing their concerns. You will take them into consideration. But let them know you will no longer allow the topic to dominate any forum within the church. If they can’t support your ministry then they need to find a ministry they can support.

6. Don’t waste your time. Too many pastors allow toxic people to dominate their time. They end up spending 30% of their time on .5% of the congregation. That’s not fair.  I know you think that your love and reason will change them, but that’s not your job. If they show no openness to dialogue, then move on…quickly. You’ve got hurting people under your care, or a sermon on Sunday, that you need to attend to.

7. Ask them to leave. This is a last resort after you’ve done your best to speak with them. But sometimes it’s necessary. You are the overseer of the flock. You need to protect your church from toxic people. And people need to see that you ARE seeking to protect them. If your church is the kind of place that allows loose cannons to roam free, you’ll lose good people.

Paul was clear in speaking to the Romans: I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. Romans 16:17. So, if this person refuses to comply, they must leave, for the sake of the Body. You don’t have to be harsh.. Let them know it pains you that it’s come to this, but you regretfully must ask them to leave.

Like I said in the previous post, this is not easy, but necessary. When’s the best time to confront a toxic person? As soon as possible. Good luck.

There are always exceptions to the rules, so I’m happy to entertain scenarios that might require altering my suggestions. I’d also like to hear some success stories (or horror stories) from your experience. It might help others.


Pastor, Do You Know Your Losses?

I’ve been pleased at the reviews I’ve gotten already on Out of Exile. One person said:

God used Remy … I forgave my offenders, forgave myself, and recalibrated. I’m back in ministry, due in large part to the writings you’ll find in this book. Am I overstating? Not if you knew my story…I’m on the comeback trail. (read the full review here)

I think what strikes people in the book is when they realize the many losses that come with being a pastor. We are trained to absorb the hard things in ministry like notches on our belt or scars of service that each tell a story. We are encouraged to “suck it up” and move on, warriors for Jesus. 

We are trained to absorb the hard things in ministry like notches on our belt or scars of service that each tell a story. We are trained to “suck it up” and move on, warriors for Jesus.

There’s nothing wrong with a pastor incurring loss for Jesus. It comes with the territory. But what IS wrong is brushing our losses under the rug and ignoring them. I think readers of Out of Exile are finding healing because I give them permission to admit and own their losses. This needs to take place in order to adequately grieve your losses and move on.

But instead, we tend to stockpile hurts and offenses that lead us to grow cold and lose our passion for ministry.click-here-to-listen3-150x150

To hear a short interview between my publisher and me, click this link. We discuss ministry losses and I also read Days 2 and 3 from Out of Exile.

After you listen to the podcast, let me know what your losses have been in ministry.


The Toxic World of the Insecure Pastor

I exchanged emails with one of my pastor readers yesterday. She too has a ministry to pastors and realized that we share a common mission: to help pastors get emotionally healthy so they can have emotionally healthy churches.  blog_insecurity

But the truth is, with so many things to think about in pastoring a church, emotional health often falls to the bottom of the priority list. And that’s easy to understand for at least two reasons: one, it’s always easier to do most ANYTHING rather than focus on your weaknesses. And two, leadership training typically focuses on leadership tactics and strategy. In other words, there aren’t many people out there emphasizing emotional health in pastors.

That’s unfortunate because failing to look at your dark side – and deal with it – will undermine the greatest strategy. Worse, it will create a culture that nurtures unhealthy attitudes, which will remain long after you are gone.

What is the dark side? In my opinion, insecurity is at the heart of the dark side. Insecurity feeds all kinds of dysfunction. I’ve seen too many leaders use their leadership to find healing for their insecurity. In their mind, if people will follow them, it will prove to themselves and others that they are valuable. Most leaders would never admit this is their motivation to lead. And honestly, they probably don’t see it. But it’s there. And it’s destructive. 

The odd thing is, insecurity, in a backwards way, often creates leaders.

Years ago I was listening to a pastor talk about how his father never gave him any credit. I suddenly got this uneasy feeling that his pastoral “calling” may have been his way of dealing with his “father wound.” This is a danger in any helping field, wounded people seek to help others as a way to help themselves. It’s so important that pastors and counselors find their wholeness in Christ before they seek to help others or they will actually cause harm.

Insecurity will make you:

  • Competitive: you need to show others that you are better than they are.
  • Jealous: you constantly compare your ministry to others you consider more successful.
  • Ungrateful: focusing on what others have causes you to hold what you have in contempt.
  • Defensive: when people try to correct you, you are quick to offer excuses in fear of being exposed in your weakness.
  • Argumentative: defending yourself isn’t enough. You feel the need to go on the offensive.
  • Risk Averse: afraid that a challenge will expose your weakness, you play it safe.
  • Over Confident: in need of affirmation, you take unnecessary risks.
  • Unforgiving: easily hurt, you find it hard to “turn the other cheek” to your critics and brood.
  • Legalistic: because you never measure up in your mind, you make it hard for others to measure up to your standards.
  • Think Scarcity: not abundance. The insecure person lives in a small world where there is never enough to go around. It feels like the sky is falling.
  • No fun: when you are trying to justify your existence every day, life gets pretty serious. People around you walk on eggshells because they realize how fragile you are.
  • Toxic: add up everything I just listed out and, man…who wants to be around that? You will make people miserable and they’ll either stay and be miserable with you, or leave.

The odd thing is, insecurity, in a backwards way, often creates leaders. People become leaders to find the affirmation they lack. And since they are so driven to succeed, they often attract followers. It’s usually not until the organization is well on its way before followers notice the “cracks” in the leader. Churches that got off to a great start can slide into a slow fade or quick dive leaving people wondering, “What happened? I used to think he/she was great.” Church planters beware!

What happened is the leader was deeply insecure and sought to salve it by gaining followers…usually unknown to them. Left untreated, it created a negative culture that slowly began to erode. The vacuum of insecurity sucked the life out of the congregation.

On the other hand, when insecure pastors find wholeness in Christ it breeds a culture of grace. No topic is out of bounds. Mistakes are forgiven, not punished. Freedom is in the air, along with a “can do” attitude. And it’s just a lot of fun to “do church” together!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in ministry for two years or twenty, your insecurity will hurt the church. Before you go to another leadership seminar, take an honest look in the mirror and ask yourself how much insecurity drives what you do.

I didn’t try to answer the problem of insecurity here because I’ve written about it many times on this blog. I added a few links below that you might explore, drop “shame” in the search box in the margin to pull up more posts, or check out my book, Healing the Hurts of Your Past.

You might also want to check out  Broken Trust…a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse.


Free Book in Exchange for Your Review

PLEASE NOTE: This offer is no longer available. We have already exceeded the number of reviews Out.of.Exile.angleAmazon allows to post on a new book. My apologies. I got a greater response on this offer than I imagined. – Remy

I’m about to launch my third book, called, “Out of Exilea forty day journey from setback to comeback.”  It will eventually be released in two versions; one for pastors and one for the public. But the pastors edition will come first.

It’s always nice to have reviews on Amazon.com for people to read so they can decide if they want to buy the book or not. If you would agree to read and review the book I will do two things:

  1. Give you a free book. Your choice of PDF or Kindle formats.
  2. Put your name in my acknowledgements page and possibly quote your review in the book.

Your review doesn’t have to be favorable, just honest. And you don’t have to be a pastor. Actually, the book will help anyone who has experienced a setback in life. But most of my examples are of pastors or people in ministry. It’s a fairly quick read, about 150 pages. I’m hoping to get the reviews published by December 1, 2014.

To help YOU decide if you want to read this book, here is what is on the back cover:

When pastors respond to God’s call, most think they will save the world, but too often they end up on the backside of a desert, what the Bible refers to as “exile.”  That’s not the worst thing. In many ways, exile is a rite of passage: a preparation for ministry to come. But too often pastors get stuck in exile. Rather than exile being a time of spiritual growth and intimacy with God, it becomes a time of disillusionment and despair, with no clue how to reclaim their lives or ministry. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

In Out of Exile, F. Remy Diederich looks at the losses all pastors face in ministry, how the losses create a feeling of “exile,” and then shows how to return from that exile. It is set up as a 40-day devotional journey: short essays followed by questions to help you move through your time of loss to a place of restoration and renewal. 

If you have suffered a significant life or ministry setback this book might be what God uses to help you make a comeback. If you’ve given up hope, let God use this book to breathe life back into you.

As a pastor for over twenty-five years, F. Remy Diederich knows the pain of exile himself. He shares openly about his journey from setback to comeback, showing pastors how they can do the same.

Thanks for your partnership. I’m hoping God uses this book to encourage many broken pastors and helps them to get their lives AND MINISTRY back on track.


Church Planter: Preparing to launch

I’m continuing to answer questions from church planters. Here’s the third question:

When Am I Ready to Launch the Church?

Before I say anything, let me offer a disclaimer for my answer: this is my opinion. Every church denomination or association has their own metrics for when to launch.  So listen to them first. I don’t want to undermine what they are saying. But from my experience here are prepare-to-launchfive things I’d be looking to have in place before launching a new church:
#1 – a good band. It doesn’t have to be amazing, but whatever you put together should be quality. The bigger you want to be long term, the better the band should be. 
A good band will help put people at ease and a good leader will help them relax and focus on God.
Pray for the person leading your worship. They spend almost as much time in front of people as you (the pastor) so you want to make sure they represent you and the vision well. You don’t want people checking out before they hear the message.
#2 – a solid plan for kids. If you want families to come…and you do…you need to have a great children’s ministry. Think like a parent…parents want their kids to be SAFE more than anything. If you skimp on children, you will lose families. I speak from experience. We had a bad space in a theater when we launched and we ended up moving just to recapture families.
#3 – a significant core team. Critical mass is…critical. The size you start with really depends on your vision. When we launched our church we opened with 200. It was nice to open with that many because we broke the 200 barrier on the first day. A lot of churches have trouble breaking 200. 
I wouldn’t start with less than 50…if the second week drops to 25 it will feel awful. I’d set 100 as a minimum number to launch with. We had up to 100 people coming to our pre-launch services. 125-200 came to our preview services (three of them in three months). Then we launched with 200. To get a core team you need to really work hard (see my earlier post on building a launch team). 
#4 – an advertising plan. In  the business world they say you have to spend money to make money. The point is: don’t be cheap. You need to let people know you exist. But most church planters have no marketing experience. I was fortunate: I had a sales/marketing background.
Be strategic. Don’t just buy any kind of advertising. Mailers are good to gain awareness, but the best advertising is people handing out postcards with a personal invitation to fun events or services with compelling topics.
#5 – strong preview services.  Everything should be in place (prayer, children’s ministry, band, etc.). Previews are the dress rehearsal…not practice for the real thing. You want previews to be as good as opening day, otherwise no one will come opening day!  They should preview what you want your church to be like. You want your messages to be the best thing you’ve got. Work on these. You only get one chance for a first impression.
Overall, you want to launch at a time of peak momentum. If you don’t sense you have momentum, delay the launch until you do. You don’t want to start with a dud. You may never recover from it.
I hope this helps. Let me know your questions.

What to Look for in a Launch Team

I’m continuing to answer some questions sent to me by a young church planter.
Today I’m looking at his second question about forming a launch team:
Question #2:  What are specific things you look for in launch team?

What to Look for in Your Launch Team

The quality of your launch team will determine the quality of your church.  I know that when you are first starting out, you tend to just want somebody…ANYbody to show up to your meetings. But be really careful.  Attracting the wrong people in the early days  can start the unraveling of the church before it even begins.
So here are five qualities that I would look for in the people who form your launch team.
Choose people who:
1. are healthy spiritually and emotionally. This doesn’t mean they have to be mature believers (although that helps). It just means they are headed in the right direction…toward Jesus.
Some of the hardest working and passionate believers are new believers. So that’s good. But often unhealthy people are attracted to church plants for the wrong reasons: they want you to have the perfect church, they want access to the pastor, they want to take control, etc. I’m not saying that you kick the unhealthy people out. Just don’t rely on them or let them represent the church.
2. share similar values. It’s important to establish your core values right away so people know whether they fit or not. At our church we have REALL values, meaning we value: Relationships, Excellence, Acceptance, Lifechange, and Laughter. These values define us. We judge much of what we do by these values and we teach them at our Welcome class so people know who we are and who we aren’t.
3. enjoy having fun together. Starting a church is intense. You’ve gotta have fun with it or you will burn out. Who are the people you enjoy doing life with? Who do you naturally like to hang out with?  If your launch team has fun together, you will be infectious. People will want to be around you guys. You’ll attract people without even trying. So this might sound frivolous, but I think it’s key to the success of a church. That’s why one of our values is “laughter.” 

If your launch team has fun together, you will be infectious. People will want to be around you guys

4. have a good work ethic. Work is fun when everyone pitches in. But when one or two people are obviously missing at all the key meetings or making a coffee run when everyone else is setting up…it gets old and drops morale.
5. are generous givers. I’m not talking about being rich (although that helps too!). Jesus commended the woman who gave two coins. The point is you want people who are willing to put the new church first in every way, including financially. Just like fun is infectious, generosity breeds generosity. Look for people who aren’t holding back.
So how do you attract these kind of people?  Be this kind of person! Like attracts like. We learned this in our music ministry. Good musicians attract good musicians. Fun people attract fun people, etc. So be the kind of person you want to attract and that’s who will start showing up.
If you think this helps, let me know and share it with a friend. More to come…

Five Ways To Gather a Launch Team

[My blog is increasingly narrowing its focus to help pastors. Sorry to “bait and switch” some of my earlier readers. Thanks for following my past posts on issues of shame, faith, and forgiveness. But I feel the need to encourage a group of people who often find themselves very alone: pastors.]

I offered to answer questions from a group of church planters on Facebook (Pastor Resources) about how to get their churches up and running. I started Cedarbrook Church with a group of 20 people back in 2003. I don’t pretend to know all the answers. But I’m happy to share what I know.

First Question: What has been the most effective way to gather a launch team?

Five Ways to Gather Your Church Launch Team

1. Perfect Pitch: Before I was in ministry I was in sales. The same principle applies to church planters as well as salespeople: you have to be fully convinced that your product is something people need and what you have to offer is the best thing available. If you don’t have that down, people will smell it a mile away and you’ll lose them in one meeting.


Perfecting Your Elevator Speech

I’m not just talking about the message of Jesus. That’s a given. Hopefully every church has that. I’m talking about the vision you have for church. Why should people make the HUGE sacrifice of coming to your underfunded church start-up with less to offer than the church down the street?

You not only need to have an answer but you need to communicate it in a clear, concise, and compelling way. Maybe you’ve heard of an “elevator speech.” That’s the 45 seconds you have to tell someone on an elevator why they should buy your product. That’s what every church planter needs to perfect. That’s where it all starts.

It’s okay to stumble around with a few of your closest friends as you develop your “pitch.” But when you are serious about going public with your idea for a church, you need to have it down. People will follow you IF they see you are not only passionate but that you have a VISION for a dynamic church AND A PLAN on how to get you there. You only get one chance for a first impression!

I bet you were looking for cool events to offer! Once you have a compelling story to tell, then just about any event will do what you need it to do. You’ll start attracting people because they will see they you have something that they want…something that is life-changing…something to live for.

2. Start Talking. The second tip is just start talking to people. Then talk to their friends. Once these people catch what you’ve got, ask them to either host a get together to hear your story, or YOU host a get together and ask your friends to invite their friends. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Make it easy in and easy out. Buy lunch or coffee or beer or pizza for a few friends. No pressure. Keep it short and to the point. Don’t bore them! Leave them wanting more.

Keep it up. Keep momentum going. The more people you talk to the more people who will catch the vision. As people see the numbers growing it will add to the excitement.

3. Offer Next Steps. Third tip, offer a next step. As you meet people, ask them if you can keep them updated by putting them on your email list. Then send out a weekly or bi-weekly update and have great events planned for people to come to.

I will offer a post on emails and websites soon. But for now let me just say that your emails and website should be as awesome as you can make them. Not flashy, but attractive, clear and compelling. People will judge you and your dream on what you show them. If you show them a poorly crafted email or website, they’ll know that the church will probably look the same.

4. Create Engaging Followup Events.  Some events should be just get-togethers to build community. Other events should have a spiritual focus to show that you are someone who can help people know and follow God. And other events might be for strategy and planning. This will draw out the doers. Don’t overwhelm people. But you want them to see that this is not just some lofty idea. This train is building steam and is about to leave the station!

5. Make the Big Ask. Final tip, when people have come out to your meetings for a while, take them out for coffee and ASK THEM to join the launch team. Tell them that you need them to make your church happen and why you believe that is. Asking people affirms them. It’s the difference between dating and being engaged. You want to help them define the relationship. You want them to move beyond casual to committed.

If you do these five things well, you will build a team. But you need to give it your best shot. You are starting something from scratch. That’s nearly impossible UNLESS God is moving on your behalf AND you give it your best.

I’ve got three more questions in queue to answer but feel free to send me more.