After-pastor churches are defined as local churches where a previous
clergy violated the trust, sexually abused, molested or harassed members
of the congregation or community. Sometimes charges are filed with the
denomination or local law enforcement. Usually the suspected clergy is
suspended. The residual violation of trust and abuse of power have
lasting effects, which need to be addressed. Members of the church may
feel disillusioned, angry or, in some cases, will not believe the
allegations. There is a high likelihood of blaming the victim, rather
than coming to terms with the possibility their pastor lied to them. A
few churches have experienced multiple violations and are severely
wounded, as are the folks attending. After-pastor churches are likely to
present most of the following symptoms, and the present clergy serving
may feel anger and frustration.
YOU MIGHT BE AN AFTER-PASTOR IF: (Guidelines for determining
likelihood you are serving an after-pastor church)
1. There is an unearned lack of trust for you as pastor.
You can honestly say you have not violated the basic trust of the
church, not broken confidences, not exercised excessive power or control
at meetings or created a hostile working environment. You sense that
folks are unwilling to follow your pastoral leadership. Most programs or
ministries are challenged at every level. You may feel second guessed on
most details of your ministry. Frustration and stress seem more intense
2. There is a lack of trust of the denomination, perhaps even open
Denominational or Conference programs are poorly attended or supported
by members of the church. Much of the comments are negative regarding
the denomination. Stories of how badly the denomination handled a
particular crisis keep being repeated.
Organizational structures may have been modified to exclude any
denominational affiliations or requirements.
3. Leaders of the church remain silent about issues that trouble them,
speaking only to one another.
If the pastor?s phones are silent, this is often a warning sign. Without
a basic level of trust, communication becomes limited to the select few.
By the time concerns are expressed, they are frequently at a crisis
point. It is a different matter if these concerns were expressed before
but nothing was done to correct or address them.
4. Decisions made at formal meetings are undone within a brief period of
The adjourned parking lot meetings or telephone tree reconsiderations
are classic. These are manifestations of a lack trust in the pastor.
Members of the church ?take matters into their own hands? and ?correct?
the errors, or what they see as bad decisions made at the formal
meetings, usually not informing the pastor until the last minute.
5. Criticism of pastoral expectations is severe and escalating.
Often in after-pastor churches the congregation desires to micro- manage
or second guess the pastor?s duties and performance. Some degree of
conflict is to be expected , but this becomes excessive and troubling.
Often the pastor feels he or she can never meet these escalating
6. Comments about how bad the denomination treats a church are bitter.
Some of the details may be missing, but open hostility about how the
denomination handled a particular situation may be heard many times from
different people. Defending the denomination will not likely stop these
7. The story on the street is that this is a sick church, and should be
Listen carefully to what folks in the larger community say about the
church. If there is a tendency to avoid the church, or if many former
members no longer attend, ask them why. If their answers appear vague or
unconvincing, they may be trying to spare the pastor?s feelings. If the
answers point to a specific time period, then some event may have
prompted them to leave.
8. There are blank periods of time in the recorded history of the
Check the recorded history of the church for time lapses where no
entries are included. This often reveals a painful period of time, that
folks do not desire to acknowledge.
9. There seems to be a secret held by a select few.
Sometimes folks feel the need to ?protect? the larger community from
hearing about their ?dirty laundry.? Often this is rooted in the fear
that if people knew what really happened in the church they would not
10. Folks may sense an unhealthy presence in the church.
This will be extremely intuitive. A sense that something is not healthy
in the confines of the church building can and does happen. Listen to
people who display this feeling.