How To Recognize Toxic Church Culture

September 11, 2019  |  
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African lady praying in church

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Churches are where broken people go to find refuge, restoration, and healing. Sadly, some churches are hurting much more than they’re helping due to the sheer toxicity and dysfunction that has been allowed to fester for years.

If you’re going to church week after week and leaving feeling more weighed down than you did before you walked through the door, it may be that the level of toxicity within your church’s culture has become so great, the messiness is clouding the message. Continue reading for the tell-tale signs of a toxic church culture.

Collection basket with money

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Offering shaming

Churches need money to operate. All of the love and well wishes in the world are not enough to keep the lights on or the building heated. Many churches are only able to keep their doors open through the generosity of its members. We get it. However, there’s something particularly troubling about churches that resort to offering shaming in order to meet their marks. In mild cases, this looks like $10.00, $20.00, and $50.00 lines. In more severe cases, this looks like church leaders calling specific people out from the pulpit and non-tithing lists being posted publicly.

Choir Singing On Microphones At Church

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The praise and worship team (or any other ministry) operates as a mean girl clique

Having the ability to lead a congregation into worship is a beautiful gift, which is why it’s very unfortunate when people abuse this role. When worship leaders choose to single out and isolate members of the team, make faces behind their backs when they sing, and remove people from the ministry based on personal grievances, it’s suggestive of a more pervasive cultural issue within the church.

In touch with his spirituality

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The musicians and ministers are sleeping with several women in the congregation

When musicians, ministers, or any other person in leadership are free to sleep around with members and cause confusion within the church without consequence, it’s a guaranteed indicator of toxic church culture.

Modern Church Pulpit

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Hateful rhetoric is taught from the pulpit

I can’t think of one scripture where we’re encouraged to hate anyone.

Tithe and Offering

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Membership is based on giving

After moving to a new city, I expressed interest in joining a local church. I was told that someone would follow up with me. Months went by, and I never heard from anyone so I eventually found another church to attend. Almost a year later, I received a threatening letter stating that I would be removed from the previous church’s roster due to unpaid tithes. Not only did they fail to follow up with me, but they were also threatening to cancel my nonexistent membership over money. Toxic.

Family Standing and Praying in Church

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You’re encouraged to neglect your family

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a devoted member of a ministry, but when your devotion is causing you to neglect your family — especially your children — that’s highly problematic. One of the most stomach-churning things to witness is when parents are pouring all of their time and resources into the church or church-related work while investing nothing into their children. It’s often said that if you take care of God’s business, he will take care of yours, but that doesn’t exempt you from checking that child’s homework, combing her hair, making sure she has clean clothes to wear and meeting any other physical and emotional needs that she may have. If anyone ever tries to tell you otherwise, it’s a red flag.

African seniors singing in choir

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The ushers are meaner than any junkyard dog

Ushers are often the first point of contact when entering a church building, especially when you’re a visitor. It never feels very welcoming when the first face that you see is wearing a scowl or barely says hello before they’re barking sharp directives at you. We get it, ushers are supposed to maintain order within the sanctuary, but doing so with a little love and kindness goes a long way. You never know what a person may be going through or how hard they fought to get to church. When ushers behave this way, it’s reflective of larger issues within that church’s culture.

Senior African man holding hymn board

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The pastor is above fellowshipping with the congregation

Pastors give so much and leading a congregation is exhausting, so it’s not surprising when ministers sometimes decide to skip out on the meet and greet after service. However, when a pastor is always being ushered away by his adjutants on some President Obama status and never makes an effort to mingle with his flock, it’s a red flag for sure.

Time to pray

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The prophets and prayer warriors are too deep to speak to folks

It can be argued that when you have certain spiritual gifts, you have to take certain measures to guard yourself. However, it’s always interesting when folks are so deep, they float around the sanctuary as if their brothers and sisters in Christ are unworthy of their acknowledgment unless they have a certain title or belong to a particular family.

Woman Praying in Church

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The chastity of young women is policed while the young men do as they please

When conversations, sermons, pamphlets, and workshops on being chaste and abstaining from sex are only directed at young women while the young men are free to run amok, you can be sure there’s some toxicity brewing within that congregation.

African lady showing faith in church

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You’re taught to go through others to get to God

If the preacher is teaching you to do anything other than getting to know God and reading the Bible for yourself, put on your track shoes and get out of dodge. While God can definitely speak to us through others, that should not be the primary source of communication.

Follow Jazmine on Twitter @jazminedenise and visit her blog, Black Girl Mom.

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