Dealing with church members who don’t like you

 ©luismolinero / Dollar Photo Club

As a leader in the church, there will be times people don’t like you. Hopefully it’s that they don’t like decisions you made, rather than just not liking you – but I’ve experienced both. Have you?

If so, you might have dealt with some of these questions: What should my response be? How should a church leader react? Is it my responsibility to remedy this dislike? How’d it happen? It could be you didn’t provide enough benevolence, or you removed someone from leadership they cared for. Maybe you didn’t allow an exception to the wedding policies the church has – or perhaps your sermon was a little too convicting for them. Or possibly – the worst of all – you changed the bulletin format.

I once heard a pastor  say, “If you don’t like the decision I’ve made or me, feel free to remove my picture from your wallet.” He might say now, “Remove me from your ‘favorites’ on your phone.”

You can’t fully control church members dislike of you or your decisions. Sometimes, being disliked is a part of leadership. But when you’re aware a church member you serve doesn’t like you or your leadership, I believe we have some responsibility to address it.

5 tips for dealing with dis-likers:

  1. Provide them an opportunity to hear an explanation of your decision or yourself.

They may not want to talk to you, but extend the offer. It’s a simple email saying you’d like to provide further clarification/context on why a decision was made. People and decisions are much easier to dislike from a distance. Often a face-to-face conversation can make issues dissipate.

  1. Don’t enable their anger or separation from you.

Don’t avoid them. When you see them in the church hallways, speak to them. Go above and beyond to be generously kind. This shows them you’ve moved on, and many times, they’ll move on too.

  1. Apologize for any part you had in contributing to the (disliked) issue.

Don’t make up an apology, or qualify the one you give. But if you did anything which contributed to the negative impact on them, go ahead and apologize for that part of it. Don’t overstate it, but simply acknowledge fault. If there’s nothing you need to apologize for, you can still take the opportunity to empathize, and tell them you’re sorry they were hurt by the matter.

  1. Minister to them, no matter what.

Someone in a former church who figuratively had “taken my picture from their wallet” had a death in their family. As a minister, I did what is required, which was to go to the family and extend care. Knowing they weren’t happy with me, I thought it might be awkward when I arrived at their house. To their credit though, whatever negative feelings they might have had for me before, dissipated. The only thing that mattered was our church grieving with them. While we never fully resolved their issue with me, our relationship was restored.

  1. Avoid the martyr syndrome.

Sometimes it makes you feel better to let friends or co-workers know how hard it is to be you—how your leadership role makes people not like you. It may feel good to express this, but it’s not healthy. Keep the information about the situations to yourself, or disclose it only to those with legitimate reasons for knowing it.


Some of us are more prone to people-pleasing than others, but I don’t think anyone enjoys being disliked – especially by fellow Christians you serve. In my role, some days I feel I’m just trying to disappoint people at a rate they can handle… and disappointing others can often lead to being disliked. (I often joke that my rough-patch with girls in junior high prepared me for this part of my job.)

You’re going to be disliked for things, even those you’ve done correctly. As a leader, you’ll need to embrace the idea that you can’t please everyone. But I’d suggest you should also embrace a method of engaging and addressing the dislike, rather than allowing it to fester.

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