by Dale E. Redman
(This concludes Brother Redman's article about the need for leaders and congregations to deal with conflict in a healthy way.)
The statistics of the damage done by these out-of-control storming sessions may not be widely known, but far too many of us have felt the impact first-hand of these stormy blasts. Perhaps it would be wise to pause for a moment here and present the heart-wrenching results of our uncharitable stormy behavior. For example:
• One third of all churches in the United States have, sometime in their past, had a pastor leave in a forced exit situation. ("Forced exit" is a term used to describe both an actual termination of the pastor, or intense pressure to resign.)
• The majority of ousted pastors (62%) were forced out by a church that had already forced out one or more pastors in the past.
• At least 15% of all U.S. churches fall into the category of having forced out two or more pastors.
• On an average, these churches have forced out three or four pastors.
• Most alarming: 10% of all U.S. churches, having forced out three or more pastors, are considered to be repeat offenders, and will most likely force out their next pastor as well.
Did you know that:
• one fourth of all pastors in the U.S. have experienced a forced exit at some point in their ministry?
• approximately four out of ten of those pastors who have experienced a forced exit at some point in their career have not returned to pastoral ministry?
• the driving force behind a pastor's forced exit is most often (43% of the time) a very small faction within the congregation, which typically is comprised of a mere three to four percent?
Finally, did you know that:
• The majority of forced-out pastors (69%) attempted to resolve the conflict with the dissenting faction, only to find it to be ineffectual? In fact, 42% of the time the attempt to make amends was "not very helpful;" and 37% of the time the attempt to make amends was "not at all helpful."*
Once again, the storming stage is unavoidable. We must all pass through these waters. However, can we honestly say, when confronted with these statistics, that we have lived up to the Spirit of the Christ whom we so loudly proclaim?
Finally, it might also be expedient to point out that any major change in the membership of the group forces the cycle to begin at the forming stage again, and each stage is repeated in sequential order. As a result, with every change of pastor, with every annual church election where new members are introduced into the group, or with every significant change of administration, we are headed for the storm once again.
Pastor, before you are tempted to leave your key to the church on the pulpit and walk away; congregation, before you are tempted to run the pastor off, take note of where you are in the stage of the normal organizational process. Discipline yourselves. Keep your focus on maintaining the synergies needed to move the group toward the performing stage. Keep your eye on the goal. If you will invest the time and energy to do so, you will have a cohesive group that moves as a mighty army for the Lord. If not, you may find yourself a congregation desperately seeking a pastor, or become a pastor turned insurance salesman.
Dale E. Redman is pastor of the Wesleyan Covenant Bible Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is also vice president-director of engineering services for LSB Industries of Oklahoma City. A former bi-vocational missionary in Latin American and the Slovak Republic, Mr. Redman is also founder and chairman of the Heartland Holiness Association.
*John C. LaRue, Jr., Christianity Today/Your Church Magazine, (May/June, 1996, Vol. 42, No. 3, p. 72).