How to Approach Toxic Church Politics

Politics… to many that is a word that just completely resonates negatively and for good reason, have you seen the current state of the presidential race?

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Now add on “church” to make “church politics” and you just have the potential for a very messy situation. To most leaders church politics are not something they want to deal with at all. But the reality is in all situations there will be a little bit of church politics. Whether that is personal, or traditional, or fear of change, there are going to be some issues.

Church politics can diminish the church’s effectiveness among the  current members and even worse in the community. I have seen some situations get so out of hand you actually hear in the community “can you believe what is going on at so and so church.” Obviously this is not something we should aspire to, but it also is something we cannot ignore and hope it will go away in our specific church contexts.

Here are some things I have learned through observation implementation of good and bad when it comes to approaching toxic church politics:

Extend Grace

Many times we see someone throwing a fit, causing problems about something that is  totally not worth it and we just want to write that person off and hopefully get them to leave the church. But, the first thing we should do is extend grace. Have we checked to see what is going on in that  person’s life? Have we checked to see if maybe their complaints are rooted in something else? The first  step should always be to listen and extend grace to those causing the disruption.

Teach and Disciple With Hope

I have seen many times where a leader just writes someone off who is involved or kindling toxic church politics without and attempt  to teach or disciple the individual. But  hold out hope for the individual and your own leadership abilities and attempt to teach and disciple which gives  a lot more hope than just writing someone off.

Check Ourselves

Are we causing toxic church politics? Are we adding onto the problem? Are  we contributing by ignoring the issues or the root of the issues? Self-reflection is good and sometimes we might find out that we have  more to do with the problem than we think we do.

Have Conviction

If the person or group of people are causing huge problems in the church by approaching church politics in an indefensible way you must take action with conviction. If they refuse to learn and grow then the problem will only grow. Present your findings and resolutions with conviction.

Give it Time

I know a lot of leaders want stuff to happen and things to resolve now now now but sometimes we need a little patience  and a little perseverance. Try to teach and disciple those causing the problems, try to put systems in place to protect against long term church politics. Because the reality of the situation is church revitalization takes time. If you are going to tackle toxic church politics you best be in it for the long haul.

How have you approached toxic church politics? Share your stories with us in the comments!

Written by Joe Hoagland

Joe Hoagland

Joe is a pastor at Grape Grove Church of Christ in Jamestown, Ohio. He is newly married to his awesome wife Jenna and together they have 2 spoiled dogs and a cat.

He loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word.

You can often times find Joe hiking, camping, writing, reading, or enjoying technology.