10 Causes of Pastor/Staff Conflict

Over my years of consulting, I’ve been thrust into the middle of staff conflicts. I’ve seen situations where the pastor was the problem; times when the staff member was the issue; and many, many times when both were at fault. Regardless of the situation, here are causes I’ve seen most often:

  1. Professional jealousy. Somebody sees somebody else as a threat, even though they’re on the same team. Spiritual insecurity leads to interpersonal strife.
  2. Ministry laziness. When a staff member or a pastor is lazy, anyone around him who works diligently gets frustrated.
  3. Wrong seats. In Jim Collins’ terminology, somebody on the bus is in the wrong seat. The bus is a rough ride when people are not in the right places.
  4. Future aspirations. This one’s usually the result of staff members who long to be the senior pastor. Sometimes it’s a genuine calling, and sometimes it’s a drive for power over a disrespected pastor.
  5. Ungodly actions. Few things get in the way of pastor/staff relationships like sin.
  6. Generational differences. The differences might be exaggerated, but they’re still real. Older leaders and younger leaders have to work at being a team.
  7. Theological disagreements. Theological positions are often deeply held, so these disagreements sometimes regrettably become truly divisive.
  8. Unmet expectations. Perhaps the job description wasn’t clear. Maybe the pastor said he’d be a mentor, but it hasn’t happened. Whatever the cause, somebody feels like the other has let him down. 
  9. Perceived favoritism. A staff member who feels left on the outskirts of the team will have a tough time relating to the team leader. 
  10. Salary conflicts. Because dollars equate to taking care of one’s family, staff members who feel underpaid get stressed when their pastor seems not to fight for them.   

What other conflicts have you seen? 


  • John W Carlton says:

    In my first staff position the pastor was a workaholic. He had teenage daughter and 2 grown children. He took no family time. I was a young 24 year old man with a wife and a year old child. For over a year I had NO night that I could call my own. Finally after almost developing an ulcer I rearranged my schedule so that I could have some family time. It wasn’t long afterward that I moved to another place of service, went back to finish my schooling while serving the church, and had much more time to call my own. BTW I learned more at that first church than I ever learned in the classroom–much of it was what not to do.

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