Menu Close

Let the Fun Begin: Baptist Church Business Meetings

church meeting

Most Baptist churches practice congregational government. This means that the church membership has the final say on what happens in the church. Some Baptist churches are truly congregational. No one can even fart without it being voted on first by church members. However, many Baptist churches are congregational in name-only. Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, in particular, are known for having dictatorial, controlling pastors. The congregation may vote on big money issues, but the day-to-day operation of the church is left up to the pastor. This is especially true when the church was started by the pastor. The church becomes his fiefdom, his personal plaything, and no one, including his charges, is going to take it away from him. As long as the pastor doesn’t diddle little boys or use church offerings to play the ponies, he likely can remain the pastor until “God” calls him elsewhere.

Some Baptist churches — believing congregationalism puts power in the wrong hands — are governed by elders. All this does is concentrate power and control. Elders can and do abuse their authority, often acting in their own best interests. One need only look at megachurches with their corporation-style boards to see what happens when stakeholders no longer have any control. That’s not to say that congregationalism is the best form of church government. As long as people are people, there will be conflicts. What elevates these conflicts in Baptist churches, however, is that both sides believe that the Holy Spirit (God) is leading and speaking to them! I participated in numerous church business meetings where people metaphorically duked it out over who would get his way. I found it interesting then, and still do, how “God” can be so unclear about his good, acceptable, and perfect will (Romans 12:2). Perhaps, the problem is that there is no God, and what you have are people with competing wants, needs, and desires.

What follows is a handful of stories from my days as a Baptist church member and pastor. These stories are a highlight reel of sorts from the countless church business meeting I attended.

As a teenager, I attended Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. It was the 1970s, and, thanks to Trinity’s aggressive evangelistic efforts, the church was one of the fastest-growing churches in the area. Attendance became so large that big attendance days such as Easter were held in the auditorium of nearby Findlay High School. Finally, church attendance reached a place where Pastor Millioni and the deacons decided it was time for a larger building. They would later move from their Trenton Avenue location to a spacious, modern round edifice near the Findlay Mall.

Church leaders decided to sell bonds to church members to finance construction. Such bond programs were quite popular at the time. They were later deemed to be fraudulent, little more than Ponzi schemes. One Sunday evening, church leaders called for a business meeting to discuss the new building. I attended the meeting. I was very much a committed follower of Jesus, one who took seriously the standards by which Christians were expected to live their lives. One rule was NO CUSSING! Imagine my surprise then when the church’s song director got into a verbal argument with someone and swore at him! Boy, was I shocked! Here was a man I deeply repected and he said some bad words. Such was my naiveté at the time.

In the early 2000s, while between pastorates, I attended Frontier Baptist Church in Frontier, Michigan. Frontier was a small, needy, dysfunctional congregation. I have concluded that I sought out such churches because I see myself as a “fixer.” I pastored several churches who needed Pastor Bruce to ride in on a white horse and “save” them. While Frontier had an elderly pastor, the congregation was most certainly in need of my help. Or so I thought anyway.

Once a month, the church — a Southern Baptist congregation — would hold a business meeting. The pastor was a strict congregationalist. He refused to make ANY decision without the church voting on the matter. The church was in desperate need of a new refrigerator. I just so happened to have a like-new fridge in storage. I told the pastor I would like to give a refrigerator to the church, thinking he would quickly and graciously say, sure. Instead — I kid you not — he said, “I can’t accept your gift, Bruce. The church will have to vote on it first.” And they did a month later. To this day, I don’t understand this kind of passive leadership, an unwillingness to make decisions on your own lest the congregation get upset with you.

I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona for a time in the 1970s. I attended Sierra Vista Baptist Church — a Conservative Baptist congregation. In this church, no one could become a member unless the congregation voted on their admission. At one business meeting, congregants discussed several people who were prospective members. When one woman’s name came up, the church matriarch asked, “is she divorced?” “Yes,” the pastor replied. “Then I vote NO on her membership.” And that was that. This church may have had a congregational form of government, but when Granny spoke everyone listened and fell in line.

In 1980, Polly and I attended the Newark Baptist Temple in Newark, Ohio for a time before leaving to help start an IFB church in Buckeye Lake. The Baptist Temple was trying to raise money to build a gymnasium, along with some additional classrooms for their Christian school. The church’s pastor and deacons had agreed to pay cash for the construction. They believed that by “trusting God,” congregants would cough up the necessary money for the new building. Months and months went by, and then one Sunday an “important” business meeting was called for. At the appointed time, the church’s pastor told congregants that church leaders, with soon-to-be-given congregational approval, had decided to borrow the money necessary to build the building. I thought at the time, wait a minute! I thought we were going to trust “God” to provide the money?” No one said a word. It seemed like everyone was falling in line behind the Pied Piper. When asked if there were any more questions, I nervously stood and said, “Why are we changing horses now? I thought we were trusting God to provide the money.” Silence. You would have thought I had cut a raunchy fart in a crowded elevator. Keep in mind, the pastor was my wife Polly’s uncle. Nearby sat her preacher father and his wife. Needless, to say, my “out of the will of God” words were not appreciated. It wouldn’t be the last time Pastor Uncle and I would clash.

In 1994, I moved my family from southeast Ohio to San Antonio, Texas so I could become the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church. Imagine my surprise at the first church business meeting when I learned that women were not permitted to speak at public meetings. Now, I was quite an authoritarian at the time, but I was egalitarian when it came to business meetings. Worse yet, if a woman had a question, she was to whisper it to her husband or another man, and he would ask their question. I kid you not. The only time women were permitted to speak out loud during public meetings was when they were singing or praying.

Finally, I want to share a story from the eleven years I spent as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. One Sunday evening, the congregation gathered for a business meeting. During the meeting, a man stood up and said, “I have a real problem with So-and-So” — a fellow church member. He proceeded to air his grievances against this man and his family. Then So-and-So’s wife stood up and began listing all the problems she had with the first man and his family. The business meeting quickly turned into a shouting match between these two families. The meeting became so contentious that I just sat down and let these two families verbally duke it out. There was a moment when I thought it might turn into a physical altercation, but fortunately, it didn’t.

Finally, their war of words ended. I stood up and let them know what I thought of their childish behavior. These two families had been sitting on an increasing number of offenses for so long that when given a chance to air them, boy oh boy, did they! The good news is they were able to work out their differences. Both families were devoted, faithful church members, people who would go out of their way to help others. But, on this night, I was reminded of the fact that they were very much human, as we all are.

This post is not meant to demean the churches and parties mentioned. I hope by sharing these stories — and I could spend days writing about church business meetings — that readers would see that Baptists, for all their talk about following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, are just as human as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. All of us want our way, whether it is in our marriages, places of employment, or houses of worship. It’s normal to think that our viewpoint is the right one — no Holy Ghost needed. What’s harder for us to do is surrender our viewpoints to those of others, to admit that perhaps we just might not be right.

Do you have a favorite church business meeting story — Baptist or not? Please share them in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.


  1. Avatar

    Church governance committees are the worst. My husband and I joined a UCC,and immediately after joining we were pressured to join committees. This church had almost no younger members and were desperate for a next generation. They gave tons of lip service to wanting to attract younger members, but we soon found that many of the members in reality didn’t want their church to change. It was so bad that my husband quit his committee after a year because they reverted every single change he made – changes they asked for. They got a brief shot in the arm after 9/11 when several new families joined, but they were gone within a couple of years. The older church members ran off the young husband and wife pastor team that they hired (we became friends), and the church told us they valued our input on the next pastor hire. We told them that the older white guy was not a good choice if they wanted to attract younger families, but they hired him anyway over a younger female candidate. It wasn’t difficult for us to leave after that. Church committees are no better than “worldly” committees.

    • Avatar

      Yes, we were in a church that had committees for everything. We actually ran the (successful) kids club and youth fellowship…and privately called these enforcers ‘committee-d christians.’ Churches always have the workers and the pew potatoes, as we also called them…..and committees seemed to make folk think they were doing something Really Useful For God by pontificating for hours about the most trivial things.

  2. Avatar

    oh boy church business meetings. the refuge and joy of the frustrated person/bully. usually run by people who are powerless in the real world. these were rife w/conflict when I was a kid. pastor dad would spend weeks leading up to meetings recruiting/training his allies to win at all costs. he felt that he had to win each time in order to be respected as pastor. I have a feeling this was behind our every 2 yr moves. when he saw he could not win then god must be calling him elsewhere. as an adult in a Baptist church w/my dh, his dad ran the church and meetings. we had to sit for at least an hour while father in law read all his notes from a spiral notebook! yes you read that right. good times. more fighting and fil would run off the pastor and fam. he finally ran off the last pastor the dying little church had and went w/o pastor for years. cue desperation and they took the only guy who would come. this guy could barely read or write . the church dwindled to my in laws and 2-4 others. we moved and left this mess thank goodness. finally he fought the wrong pastor. pastor got the few others left to turn on father in law and run him out. he was so devastated he died just a few years later deeply depressed. don’t tell me that religion is good for people. thanks for your work bruce.

  3. Avatar
    Susannah Anderson

    The worst fights were always about money. (Although a “minor” issue like the colour of the nursery carpet could always add another hour to the meeting.)

    Once, in a “D&E” meeting, deciding on a mission expense, the vote split down the middle. Immediately, the man with more authority remembered that women were not supposed to have a voice. It had not bothered him before that moment, but now, with a men-only vote, his side (no) would have won the day. As it was, since a discussion and re-vote still came out 50/50, the decision was tabled until the next month’s meeting, which was equivalent to a no vote, and he went away happy. And we women were still allowed to speak at the next meeting.

  4. Avatar

    I’ll never forget my first business meetings… I was a rededicated Christian, and was really looking forward to having spiritual meetings, where the Holy Spirit led us in making the best decisions to help our church grow and lead more people to Jesus!
    Boy, was I wrong!
    The meetings were where I learned just how worldly and mean the church leaders were, including the pastor!
    They acted completely different than during the church services! There was no higher spiritual experience as I had hoped, just complete amazement at how the deacons and pastor controlled everything!
    That was actually one of the first steps in my eventual loss of faith…you wanna see how your preacher and deacons really are? Attend some business meetings!

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      When the congregation split into two camps after many years listening to my dad preach, it broke his heart and I think it was for the same reason you express, Goyo. He couldn’t beleve that the believer family could not be aware that God did not want such divisive attitudes and power plays. He came close to a breakdown when we left the church he had built and I wonder if he ever recovered finally. He never left the faith, just carried on, poor man.
      I am happy to know you lost yours and found life again.
      As time goes on, I realize more and more that this kind of belief is a sickness. It destroys some lives while others live with it and manage. I am 67 years old now and feel that evangelical belief requires antibiotics to be overcome. If one discovers contradiction and lies, holier than thou bullshit, or one actually reads the Bible critically, then the antibiotic might work and bring one to health again. Most of my family seem lost forever in belief and over the years just seem to appreciate the dope more and more, leaving Reason behind with a big glory smile.

  5. Avatar
    Julie S.

    Bruce, the IFB church I grew up in always had civil business meetings (throughout the 80s & 90s). But when a new pastor came in 1999, one of the first things he did (a Hyles man) was tear up the Church Constitution. He said God would lead HIM on how to run the church (he also completely destroyed the church’s prophet’s chamber within the 1st month there because he said he didn’t like the poor image it represented). And there were no more business meetings either. Preacher would decide. And if there were things he wanted input on, he would have “Men’s Meetings”. Absolutely NO WOMEN ALLLOWED! And if women had any issues they wanted raised, EVERYTHING had to go thru their husbands. If no husband in the picture, then they had to ask the pastor’s wife to mention it. Total patriarchy. Ridiculous. Was glad to leave all that mess behind for GOOD!!

  6. Avatar

    I think “pew potato” has to be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard! Our family just called those people “lapsed”…and they sure as hell weren’t going to heaven since catholics believe in a works-based system. Thanks for the laugh!

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Bruce Gerencser