Toxic congregations kill clergy

Huffington Post reports on a new report on "Toxic Congregations" and clergy life:

They are called "clergy killers" -- congregations where a small group of members are so disruptive that no pastor is able to maintain spiritual leadership for long.

And yet ministers often endure the stresses of these dysfunctional relationships for months, or even years, before eventually being forced out or giving up.

Adding to the strain is the process, which is often shrouded in secrecy. No one -- from denominational officials to church members to the clerics themselves -- wants to acknowledge the failure of a relationship designed to be a sign to the world of mutual love and support.

But new research is providing insights into just how widespread -- and damaging -- these forced terminations can be to clergy.

An online study published in the March issue of the Review of Religious Research found 28 percent of ministers said they had at one time been forced to leave their jobs due to personal attacks and criticism from a small faction of their congregations.

The researchers from Texas Tech University and Virginia Tech University also found that the clergy who had been forced out were more likely to report lower levels of self-esteem and higher levels of depression, stress and physical health problems.

And too few clergy are getting the help they need, said researcher Marcus Tanner of Texas Tech.

"Everybody knows this is happening, but nobody wants to talk about it," Tanner said in an interview. "The vast majority of denominations across the country are doing absolutely nothing."

Comments (3) bishop called our church a clergy killer. Did it have something to do with the fact that he sent us TWO priests that he couldn't place anywhere else, one of which had already destroyed another church? Once we got a shepherd who wasn't dysfunctional, we have been cited as a model for congregational growth. It can be a two-way street!

Yes- Lois -- if often runs both ways or is a mix -- leadership (lay and ordained) that stays centered, non-anxious and focused on its hopes and goals can move past toxicity

This whole issue is very much a two way street, and in my experience it's usually the congregations that get the short end of the stick (if only because there are hundreds of them who are affected and once laid waste, ti takes a long time for a congregation to recover). There's more to "centered, non-anxious and focused on hopes and goals" to a viable working relationship between a priest and a congregation.

Priests who come in and start making changes right away before they even understand the landscape are generally toxic to congregations.

Priests who use a parish as a stepping stone to the next, bigger, better parish are generally toxic to congregations.

I could go on with many examples form personal experience (12 years on vestry in the last 20 years, five of them as senior warden...)

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