When the Congregation Abuses its Pastor

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Recently I heard the fifth story in as many months about a pastor being physically threatened, and his family verbally abused, by members of his congregation.

Recently I heard the fifth story in as many months about a pastor being physically threatened, and his family verbally abused, by members of his congregation.

Flickr/Jared Kelly

While we would like to think that these are isolated occurrences, the Clergy Health Initiative’s research suggests otherwise. The focus groups we conducted in 2008 surfaced this problem repeatedly, drawing out eloquent and heart-breaking stories from pastors. One pastor reflected, "In my old job, I could fire people who were obnoxious or insubordinate. Here in church, we never fire anyone for bad behavior." 

This practice takes a serious toll. Data from the survey we conducted in 2008, which measured the status of pastors’ mental health, suggests a link between critical parishioners and clergy depression.

How do you cope with this abuse? What toll does it take on your spouse and children? Does it manifest differently for female pastors? Does it impact your spiritual life?  How many of your seminary classmates have left ministry because they felt hounded out?  And do you get support from your denominational leaders when you face these issues?

Please comment.  Those of us not on the front lines of ministry have a lot to learn.

Yours in health,
Robin

Robin Swift, MPH
Health Programs Director
Clergy Health Initiative

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