After Pastor Churches








Please Note: The owner of this site (Rev. Allan F. Wells-Goodwin) passed away on March 27, 2007.


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 than normal.

2. There is a lack of trust of the denomination, perhaps even open hostility.
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 time.
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 expectations.

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 stories.

7. The story on the street is that this is a sick church, and should be avoided.

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 church.
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 attend.

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.




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