10 Bad Church Work Habits

Sam Rainer

June 10, 2009

CNN.com recently posted on 10 of the worst work habits. After reading the article, I could not help but to view these bad habits through the lens of church life. So I’ve reworked the top ten list as it pertains to the daily tasks of ministry. You can read the original article here.

1. Procrastination. It’s harmful at any level, but the effects of this bad habit are compounded at higher leadership levels. If a ministry leader or senior pastor consistently procrastinates, then everyone is forced into a last minute fiasco. If top leaders don’t plan ahead, then by default no one plans ahead.

2. Sloppy communication. My second biggest pet peeve is poor grammar and careless writing. Write in complete sentences. Proof the worship guide. Check press releases for time and location errors. Stop splitting infinitives. Fill in the email subject line. And don’t chew gum or crunch ice in a meeting, which is my biggest pet peeve.

3. Confusing informal with disrespectful. I doubt most pastors would prefer to be called “The Most Holy Reverend Doctor.” In my experience, most church staff are on a first name basis. In church work, a direct superior may also be a best friend, but authority and submission must remain intact.

4. Taking advantage of leeway. For me, one of the most refreshing parts of being called into ministry from the corporate world was flexible hours. I work longer, more intense hours at the church, but I don’t have to be at my desk for specific times anymore. I’ve seen many workaholic pastors and many lazy pastors, with very few in between. Neither extreme is admirable, but lazy pastors are especially harmful to Kingdom work.

5. Refusing to mingle. It’s a sad truth, but you can work at a church and never be among the people.

6. Consistently running late or going over. A person who does not honor time parameters erodes trust. Occasional offenses are forgivable. A pattern of time abuse shows disrespect for others.

7. Staying in a silo. Most midsize to large churches have departments, programs, and separate ministries. Clear distinctions of job responsibilities accompany these silos. The mission killer is usually not the silo. The mission killer is the “it’s not my job” attitude.

8. Acting as the resident contrarian. “Yes” men and women are annoying. People who always believe their ideas are better are doubly annoying.

9. Electronically badmouthing the church. A blog is tantamount to speaking on a street corner with a megaphone. Not too many people would air dirty laundry that way. An even more cowardly action is blog-bashing a church.

10. Politicking. Church work requires smoothing edges and rubbing shoulders with the right people. Consistent politicking, however, makes people question a person’s motivation.

The list is not exhaustive, so feel free to add any long-term bad behaviors that you believe are detrimental to the church.

27 comments on “10 Bad Church Work Habits”

  1. Micah Fries says:

    Sam, great stuff. I’ve sent it on to friends/coworkers…

  2. Doug Hibbard says:

    Next week, sometime when I get around to it, I’ll read this on my Blackberry during fellowship time.

    Oh wait…

    Good stuff. Thanks for the post.

  3. kdb1411 says:

    One of your best posts yet! I will give it to my leadership team asap. Thanks Sam.

  4. Billy Nale says:

    Great post. I’m forwarding this to my great staff.

  5. Dude, I love this! You captured so many of my pet peeves and the things that frustrate me about ministry at times. (I had too many years in business before surrendering to full-time vocational ministry.)

    I wrote a similar post:


    Thanks so much,
    Ron Edmondson

  6. A A Morella says:

    I’ve already distributed this to my leadership team. Your article is better than the original!

  7. Mike Landry says:

    Sam, great post. And so very true. You nailed it.

  8. Thom Rainer says:

    So you’re not a workaholic? Hmmmm . . .

  9. Since you said “Feel free to add”, here’s one. Leaders not showing appreciation for (sometimes-extensive)jobs well-done. Although we don’t work for the praise of men, the Bible does instruct us to “encourage one another and build each other up”. For one person or group to get praise and appreciation lavished on them (say, for a successful VBS) and another, who works for weeks on an outreach that involves over 50 volunteers and impacts over a thousand people, and that team to be totslly overlooked, that’s very discouraging.

    1. Howard Fuller says:

      That is tough. I lead outreach in our church, it is an overlooked ministry that is very difficult to to get participants.

  10. BJ Foust says:

    This is a good article.

  11. Sam Rainer says:

    Dad – I must come by it honestly 🙂

  12. Sam Rainer says:

    Ann – great addition! Thanks.

  13. Eddy says:

    Great post! Having worked in vocational ministry for a number of years I just dont understand the mentality of ‘close enough is good enough’ when it comes to serving God. We seem to take the idea that God will work it all out to the extreme meaning we can sit back and do next to nothing and expect God to work wonders.

    Personally I believe that we are called to give God our first fruits we must do everything with excellence becasue we are doing it for God our Father. Note excellence is the attitude not the outcome, God isnt calling for perfection (He knows we cant be perfect) nor is He necessarily calling for us to be successful in our endeavours (though He does want that) He’s more interested in our attitudes towards Him, His work and other people.

    We need to strive for excellence in our lives and be people of integrity, who are real with people in order to show them to God.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  14. Chris Bonts says:

    “Stop splitting infinitives.” YES, yet another reason why I love your ministry. It is comments like that one which almost overcome your preference for the gulf coast of Florida over the east coast.

    With regard to additions, I would say “Always Be Prepared for Meetings.” Nothing is worse than sitting through a staff meeting or training session for which the leaders or participants have not prepared adequately. Well thought our agendas help a bunch in this area but are not full proof. By the way, in 12 years of theological and practical training for ministry, I was NEVER taught how to lead a meeting (deacons, staff, SS, volunteer, etc). It has been a long growth process for me.


  15. Samdog says:

    Good Stuff as a growing church it is good to have indicators of bad habits, that way we can abolish them once and for all

  16. Christianschool Teacher says:

    GOSSIP, GOSSIP, and by the way, GOSSIP is a ministry destroying practice. The inability to say, “I admit I was wrong” and “I’m sorry” drives away good people. Last but not least, having an “old boy” or “old girl” network is definitely counter productive.

  17. Sam Rainer says:

    Chris – I’m with you. It’s a good idea to always prepare for meetings 🙂

  18. Carl Knittel says:

    A facebook friend pointed me to this blog and it is great. I’m a music minister who occasionally fills in at the pulpit. I am also a long winded speaker. I learned a tip from broadcasting about writing the sermon first. One page typed(I use Times New Roman in 10 point) is about 12-15 minutes. If you work your sermon down to fit in the time frame you rarely go over and avoid the reputation of running late on Sundays/Wednesdays.

    If your doing your planning by hand the 12-15 minute mark is about one and a half pages on a standard legal pad. The legal pad system was used by Reagan for his radio commentaries before he was president and by typing a couple of those out I found the 1 typed page limit. It’s a great way to manage time and, even if you don’t read it word for word, you can keep yourself from chasing rabbits by following it through your lesson. Remember to type out or cut and paste the verses you plan to quote as these do count towards the time and it can help keep you from hunting around for them if your book mark slips from your bible(something that has happened to me more than once.)

  19. Aaron says:

    Solid list, Sam (number nine is a healthy reminder for me to watch what I say on my blog). I’d suggest adding “Don’t believe your own press” to the list. Whether the local paper is asking you how you’re getting more folks in your church or your getting lots of attention on blogs and lots of downloads of the podcasts, this seems to be the character killer for many people. An unhealthy attitude toward attention is a breeding ground for pride.

    I’d also suggest “Studying the Scriptures only for sermon/study prep.” In whatever area we serve, be it as a pastor or lay leader, we can’t encourage people to do what we’re not, nor can we share with others what God is teaching us if we’re not learning from Him.

  20. Hi5! We hope this excerpt of ‘What about The Church?!’ a perspective of Inclusion and Integration in the pews. http://t.co/gVabzJq
    “Treating people with disabilities (terminal conditions, special needs, disabilities) as 1 dimensional overlooks the multi-layers of spiritual hierarchy of needs of the faith community. By only attending to them for prayer and/or ancillary hospice care, church work ignores the triune being that seeks a holistic faith and relationship with God and Jesus’ church. In other words, we are spirit, soul and body. If Jesus addresses all aspects of human existence, church work should seek positive and inspiring ways to do so, too. One aspect is that Faith-believers with disabilities/special needs/terminal conditions have religious needs and concerns. We understand that a single church can not do this. It definitely takes an assembly of God’s people with the Lord’s help.”
    “Many church dwellers percieve a periferal existence as similar to being ‘lukewarm’. Often, we hear friends wonder why their church only allows those with disabilities to be recognized on ‘special days/ceremonies/activities. They prefer to just be included as a ‘person-of-faith who tithes and supports their church endeavors and what to be viewed as a VALUEable member of the Body of Christ’. Instead, they say they feel and are treated as half-a-member; a poor soul with an affliction; someone who should not pray for others but rather should only be prayed for and a slew of ‘well-intentioned’ deeds.”

    For the full post and/or to share your ‘uniquely different’ views, join us on ‘Enjoying The Hi5s of Autism-A Family Experience’ http://t.co/gVabzJq

    Definitely sharing Church Forward on our ‘EnjoyHi5Autism’ social media sites, namely: (original) http://familyenjoyinghi5autism.blogspot.com ; (snippets) http://enjoyhi5autism.blogspot.com ; and (audio) http://enjoyhi5autism.wordpress.com.

  21. I must confess this is really a timely and thoughtful article for me. It is quite informative and educative. Best regards to the amiable author.

  22. Jordan says:

    How about adding Pastoral leadership that is verbally abusive and disrespectful to employees.

  23. Charissa says:

    A work mate recommended me to this site. Thanks for the resources.

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