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    Hiring a new pastor:  When conflict gets ugly…

    Hiring a new pastor:  When conflict gets ugly…

    Dear Ken,

    Fighting has erupted over the election of a new pastor. We are a Baptist church and our bylaws require a 75% majority vote to call a new minister. For the past six months, the bylaws have been routinely ignored by the vocal minority until last night when, at a congregational meeting, the current candidate received 74.3% vote. Then you would have thought that the bylaws were written in stone along side the Ten Commandments. Fisticuffs broke out. Help!

    North Carolina ---


    Dear North Carolina,

    In just a few sentences you have highlighted deep problems. The fact that the bylaws are used only when it serves one side or the other tells me that the 'fight' is not about the candidate, but about control. When people can make up the rules as they go, a steady stream of conflict and behind-the-scene power plays inevitably follow. The focus has to change from struggling over a specific outcome to finding agreement on process. By way of analogy, the reason why our country got through the 2000 presidential election unscathed is because there was a recognizable process in place to resolve the issues. Our country did not devolve into civil war, as other nations under similar circumstances have, because the citizenry considered the process legitimate whether they agreed with the outcome or not.

    The fact that fisticuffs broke out can be made to work in the church's favor. Everyone is undoubtedly in agreement that a line was crossed that should not have been. Recognizing that your church is in trouble may be the only thing that all sides agree upon. Given that this conflict has engulfed the entire church, including leadership, the board should call upon the services of a skilled congregational conflict resolution mediator / facilitator. A mediator can help the parties come to agreement on the steps that will guide the pastoral selection process from beginning to end. Happily, if accord is reached on this level, few, if any, will have a legitimate complaint regarding the outcome and the candidate who is selected. Moreover, a foundation will be built upon which both sides can begin to constructively resolve their other differences.


    Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs individualized help, please visit Ken's website or call 301-253-8877.

    Copyright Kenneth C. Newberger




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    1. Paul Loyless on Fri, January 21, 2011

      Dear Candidate that received 74.3% of the votes. Run! Head for the mountains!

    2. Michael on Fri, January 21, 2011

      I bet they closed the service with ‘I’m So Glad I’m A Part Of The Family Of God’.

    3. BART on Fri, January 21, 2011

      I know of a church in the same situation.  New pastor needs 75% and recieved 76%.  That means that 25% of the church doesn’t like you before you even come!!  RUN!!

    4. Peter Hamm on Fri, January 21, 2011

      That’s okay, I think 75.8% of the Israelites voted yea to the Golden Calf.

      Congregational rule. Where churches, even really good ones, put more stock into the US Constitution than the Bible.

    5. Aaron on Fri, January 21, 2011

      Anyone who gets 77% should run. Certain death to whoever gets blessed for that parish.

    6. Ronnie Ding on Fri, January 21, 2011

      Can a church live without a voting system?

    7. Bart on Sat, January 22, 2011

      Can a church live without a voting system?  Sure, if you think you’re Moses.

    8. Ronnie Ding on Sun, January 23, 2011

      Many churches in my country are without that and many of them are thriving! Just a thought! Anyway thanks for your point of view

    9. Eric on Mon, January 24, 2011

      It would take a very determined, dedicated leader to take on a church with a 75% vote. I would run from that situation.

      A clear power control in place. Very little ministry present. This church needs to immediately stop their search for a pastor and address the power control issues. They can start searching again after that is resolved.

    10. Todd on Mon, January 24, 2011

      Peter, love it but I’d take it a step further. They follow the newly-re-interpreted (from representative to pluralistic democracy) US Constitution over the Bible.

    11. rbud on Mon, January 24, 2011

      Doesn’t sound much like a church of the Jesus I know. Seems like they shouldn’t be calling a pastor at all. Maybe they’d be better off with a CEO or an umpire.

    12. Eric on Mon, January 24, 2011

      Umpire. That made me laugh out loud.

    13. Mark Simpson on Mon, January 24, 2011

      A couple of RR’s   (random ramblings)
      I became pastor of a church in the Chicago area 20 years ago with 100% of the votes. That scared me.  Why? Jesus said woe unto you when all speak well of you, for so they treated the false prophets.  Anyone who provides legitimate Biblical leadership will be opposed and persecuted.
      If fists were involved, I would not come near your church, and neither would a hundred thousand other qualified men of God.  Some churches are such a bad example that they should simply close.  Jesus said of some, “your house is left to you . . . ”  you want it so bad, take it. I want no part of it. If Jesus said that, . .?

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