Survey suggests church discipline often handled informally

Monday, April 16, 2018
Bill Bumpas (

church pewsA new study from a Christian research group shows that few churches have disciplined their members for misconduct.

The survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors across the U.S. delved into a topic that isn't discussed very often, according to Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. The pastors were asked: "When was the last time your church formally disciplined a member?"

More than 80 percent said their church has not disciplined a member in the past year. More than half say they don't know of a case when someone has been disciplined. More than half of the pastors (55 percent) say no member has been disciplined during their time as pastor or before their tenure.

In an interview with OneNewsNow, McConnell says part of the reason for the low percentage of reprimands could be because informal discipline is taking place before the issue makes its way up to the pastor or other church leaders.

McConnell, Scott (LifeWay Research)"A healthy confrontation [not involving the pastor] may occur," he suggests, "and whether that person is repentant or whether they simply kind of self-select out or informally leave before formal discipline can occur, the result may actually be very similar to what a formal discipline would have done."

In fact, the study recap says only eight percent of churches say "the responsibility for discipline lies solely with the pastor."

McConnell offers this takeaway from the study:

"... Given the low frequency of church discipline taking place, I think it's worth every church reviewing what their policies are, in the spirit of those policies, to make sure that their actions are in keeping those policies; and that the really high standards of scripture are being upheld within their fellowship."

The study did reveal the following about discipline within various denominations: Pentecostal (29%), Holiness (23%) and Baptist pastors (19%) are most likely to say a church member was disciplined in the past year. Methodist (4%) and Presbyterian/Reformed (9%) pastors are less likely.

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