I assume it’s clear that I’m using “family-run” as a negative for churches. I’ve known great families that have much positive influence in the church, and I thank God for those kinds of families. On the other hand, I’ve also seen the negative side of “family-run” churches. In actual fact, many modern churches are operated as “husband-wife gospel church”.
Here are some signs of that kind of church:
1. A significant number of members are related to this family. I’ve seen some smaller churches where more than 80% of the members were part of a controlling family.
2. The family has a matriarch or patriarch that the church recognizes as an influential, power-wielding member. Few people will confront him or her, lest they upset the family.
3. A family member is part of every major committee in the church. In many cases, they chair these committees—and have done so for several years.
4. Some folks know the church as “the church where the ______________ go.” You can fill in the blank with the name of any family that seems to run the church.
5. A conflict with one family member often becomes conflict with the rest of the family. Everyone is so related that conflict quickly escalates.
6. More than one family member has said to the pastor, “We were here when you came, and we’ll be here when you leave.” Their words are probably accurate, but they’re nevertheless an expression of power, dominance and control of the church.
7. Gifted people who want to serve aren’t often given that opportunity.That’s because family members already dominate the system—and they don’t want to give up their positions.
8. Parades of short-term pastors have led the church. They come under God’s call, but they then hit the wall surrounding “the family.” Finding the opposition too stifling, they move on to another church—and the family again fills any leadership void.
9. The church tends to see the senior pastor as an employee more than a spiritual leader. The family publicly or subversively requires the pastor to do what they want. They control what the pastor can and cannot preach. He is their employee. They’re not open to spiritual teaching or correction.
10. None of the family members would say that they’re controlling the church. They camouflage their actions in spiritual language, and they’re convinced they’re simply doing what’s best for the church.
11. In many cases, the church is not growing. At best, they’re living in “maintenance mode.” The same people dominate all the church does, and they seldom have a strong commitment to evangelism. After all, reaching new members might ultimately threaten their positions.
Over the last two decades, I have come across many of such ‘family controlled’ churches. Sometimes, the decision making process of the church are taken in the bedroom of the controlling family. And they pretend grave dangers for the growth, health and well being of local churches and denominations.
This is one of the issues I will be addressing squarely and courageously in our next conference, Church Growth Shift, 11-14 February. You can see all the details on my Facebook page. You can also inbox me or chat with 08056126914.