Ability to Lead FCCF
Former Staff Member: “Just to be clear: I left because of Steve & told him so to his face “
Former Staff Member: “Thank you for reaching out. I would be willing to tell you guys about why we left. First, I need you to know that ##### and I have deep ties to St. Louis. It’s where both of us grew up. It’s where all of our family lives. We have many childhood friends and mentors there. Our home church is there. #### had a job she loved. Most of all, we adored the people at FCCF and the community we worked in. The ever-changing dynamics of the community and even the things going on in Ferguson made us care for the community even more. We felt like we had a purpose for ministry there. I say all of that to let you know that leaving FCCF was an extremely hard decision that we did not take lightly. We would not have left all of that without major reasons .
It took us about a full year to make the decision (even though it was announced to our students the first time a week before we left). Steve has said that every minister has left on their own accord and he has not fired anyone. While that is technically true, he made it really difficult for us to stay there with his leadership style. I felt I wasn’t being allowed to do things that I felt were the best moves to grow our ministry and for our students to grow as Christ followers. I also felt like I was being forced to continue to do things that were no longer working, because they were run by family and/or because it was something we had always done. The environment was very difficult to work in and it got to the point where we felt we could not effectively minister to our students because we were constantly so frustrated. A second reason we left was because of the ALL IN campaign. We could not get behind the tens (and even hundreds) of thousands of dollars that were to be spent on LED signs and bathroom remodels when we had a community hurting so deeply and when we were still in 6 million dollars of debt on our building .
We also were disappointed when the new vision was the exact same as the old vision, just with different words, which told us that nothing would change. We began to realize we were not the first staff to face these issues and even though many had left before us for the same reasons, the elders had done nothing to address it. 1 person had all the say and ministry should be a team effort. I felt like my ideas and passions were not valued and eventually we felt so exhausted mentally, emotionally, and spiritually that we had to leave.
At this time, I feel it’s necessary to tell you that as we left I did not say these things to Steve’s face and I didn’t have the chance to tell them to the elders because they never once asked me why I was leaving. Or even acknowledged to me that I was leaving. At the t me I felt like it wasn’t worth it and I didn’t want to create division as we left. So, Steve may say that I never said these things to him, and that would be true. However, after I left, I was sent an exit interview by Bob Dees (along with the rest of the staff who had left). The exit interview asked us many questions about our experience at FCCF and in that I was extremely honest about why I left. I sent in my answers several months ago and have never heard anything back since nor have any of my follow up emails been responded to. I’m not sure who Bob has shown those to (if anyone) but I have attempted to make Steve and the elders aware of the issues since I have left. It is hard for us to watch everything that is happening. I know things can be made right, but it will only be from people like you stepping up and asking the hard questions. “
Former Staff Member: “Barb, I am so sorry you’re feeling the turmoil of all that is going on at FCCF. Trust me, I’ve been there and still grieve whenever these questions pop up. I truly loved that place and miss it still, though I know it isn’t the same as when we left. I know it’s somewhat different for us because #### was on staff. We were privy to more information than the average attender, but I will let you know that ### tried EVERYTHING he could do to bring about change. He talked to Steve W, he talked to elders, he wrote down everything, but in the end, he was made out to be the bad guy. He was told that he had to submit to Steve’s authority and that if he disagreed with Steve, then he was being divisive. He was accused of breaking a contract (that did not exist) and of ‘stealing’ money to pay for Easter/Behold the Lamb (which he did not do). He was told that if he talked to anyone (outside of leadership and me) about what he was going through, then he would be fired. When he tried to talk to elders about all of this, they basically told him that they believed Steve so ####and I felt we had no choice but to leave. Everything #### tried to say would get all twisted and manipulated to make him look like a bad guy. How could he continue to work in that kind of situation? With that kind of ‘leadership’ (or lack thereof)? I couldn’t continue to watch my husband fall deeper and deeper into despair as he questioned his abilities. I know many other staff eventually came to the same conclusion. Every time they would try to effect change, they would hit a brick wall because in the elders’ eyes and Steve’s, Steve can do no wrong. He is the authority. And if any elders disagreed, eventually they would also get pushed out or leave out of frustration. I know these probably aren’t the things you want to hear. I know you want to make FCCF the place you long for it to be – healthy, thriving, etc. I would like to believe that’s possible, but from everything I’ve seen, I don’t know that it is. I believe God can do anything and that FCCF is a wonderful place, but I also believe that the leadership has to realize its faults and own up to its mistakes for God to bring about the necessary change, and I don’t think they ever will. Here is an article that might bring about some clarity for why I think that: http://www.truthguard.com/Articles/answering -the-question -should-i-confront-my-pastor-a64.html
Former Staff Member: “I’m not sending a direct letter, but I’m happy to answer specific questions you and others might have. I’ll talk to you soon!” In that discussion I was told that this person left because he was not allowed to do his job. Steve controlled how I did my job.
Former Staff Member: “I moved to Florissant with the intention of serving at First Christian for a long time. I loved my job and feel that I performed with excellence. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, and my love language is words of affirmation, so I always aimed to deliver. Steve was a manipulative micromanager and made it very hard for me to use my gifts and talents for the kingdom. Nothing was ever good enough, and if staff openly praised my work in our staff meetings, he would reprimand me in private that it doesn’t matter what others think – all that matters is what he wants. I thought the issue was with me and not him – he’s the senior pastor after all.
So I resolved to work on changing who I was in the hope that things would change, I purchased a home in Florissant because I loved the church, the people and the community. My plan was to spend 10+ years in Florissant with the church and raise my family. But things kept getting worse at the church with Steve; he became more insecure and more manipulative and controlling.
Other staff members started approaching me about their issues with Steve (I could name 7 that spoke at length with me over their concerns with Steve). That’s when I realized the problem wasn’t me, it was Steve. He was the common denominator. I suggested to the other staff that we bring it to the elders.
During a staff meeting, I asked how we could contact/meet with the elders (I thought it odd that this isn’t common knowledge. Isn’t that what the elders are there for)? Steve immediately accused this as being divisive, and that staff were never to go to the elders. Only he was to interact with them. Next, we (the staff concerned with Steve) pondered approaching Steve as a group in love (like an intervention), but we were assured by a long-time staff member that it wouldn’t end well and we would all be fired. Ultimately, we all began pursuing other ministries. I announced to the executive pastor that I had several job offers and that I was considering one heavily. He asked what was holding me back because it was such a good offer. I told him that if there was any hope in Steve changing, then I would forsake the new position and stay at First Christian. He told me that Steve would never change, and that he (the executive pastor) didn’t know how much longer he could protect us (the staff).
Even then, it still took me two weeks to decide on the offer. I honored my contract with the church by giving 45 days’ notice which the executive pastor accepted. The next week after Steve was informed I was leaving, the executive pastor told me that Steve thought it best that I leave in three weeks instead. He wanted me gone. For the next three weeks, Steve avoided me and never spoke to me. Each Sunday, he was scheduled to announce that I was leaving, but he never did. When other staff confronted him about it in our staff meeting, he said he forgot (three weeks in a row!). Myself, along with other staff members, believe this was a lie. He just wanted to brush me under the rug and not count me towards the staff exodus. Over the course of the three weeks, no elders contacted me wondering why I was leaving. Turns out Steve told them I was leaving for a bigger paycheck. Not True!
I don’t believe the elders are competent. It seems like Steve has surrounded himself with a group of Yes-Men with no backbones that are blinded by Steve’s deity-like status at the church. In my mind, the elders should be removed and the congregation should vote in new elders, and Steve CANNOT be one of them. That’s like letting the president vote in congress!!! Just wrong. I don’t believe Steve is a good leader, and should be phased out. There are plenty of quality pastors working at the church under Steve that could easily fill his shoes until a new senior pastor is chosen. He is the only reason I left First Christian
I left my church, my immediate family, my friends and my house because he is a manipulative, insecure man. I personally never caught him in a lie. It’s possible that I just wasn’t at the church long enough to recognize it when he did lie. However, a number or pastors/staff at the church have detailed accounts of catching Steve in HUGE lies, but I don’t believe I ever encountered them first-hand. As is such, I wouldn’t say he has tons of moral failure, but his performance as the leader of the church has been so terrible, he shouldn’t be leading it. As for the Brandon stuff, I don’t know anything about it.
Former Staff Member: In answer to my question? Micromanagement a problem at our church? “That sounds about right to me “
Former Staff Member: “Hey there – In response to your post, it sounds like you already have a good idea of part of the reason why I left, as it’s a theme among the other former staff. “
Former Staff Member: “What others are saying differently? I, along with current and former staff were asked by Bob Dees to fill out an evaluation regarding our experience there. The details behind why I left are in that document. Here is the bottom line. I was fine with Steve as a person, but not particularly as a boss. He is not the easiest person to work for. So because of that, I ran out of gas and decided to move on.”
Former Staff Member: When asked if you left because of micromanagement. “In part yes – but that is about as much as I will say – I am watching fb and all the muck – church leadership has some real work to do – I hope they search for truth and transparency. “
Former Staff Member: Yes seeing the discussions on Facebook. Sorry to hear about the Seppelts. You are doing the right thing to pray and search scriptures. We are praying that the situation calms down and it gives the elders and Steve time to respond in a productive format, after the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. “
Former Elder: “One other thing to consider, some or all of the ministers who left may have left having signed a separation agreement which govern what they were and were not able to say about the church in exchange for relieving them of potential housing debt they may still have had with the church. Most people are unaware that when staff members move in from out of the city, they are often given a substantial loan by the church for housing expenses, to be paid back over a period of time. Many of the staff members were not around long enough to pay it back, and I would not be surprised if they were offered Grace in that regard with the exchange that they would agree not to speak negatively about the church. I know this sounds cynical, but it may well be reality”
Former Elder: “He’s hopeless. My heart is broken. I will not be returning “This Elder had met with Steve and voiced concerns.
Deacon: “I can tell you this, #### resigned as chairman of Deacons today. He normally was included in the Elders meetings but this time he would only be allowed to be present for 35 minutes and be asked to leave for the rest of it. There’s so much I would like to discuss with you. “
Former Member: “First, I’m sorry you are hurting right now. Everything that has happened over the last several years has been so disappointing to so many. I’ve tried to distance myself from the FB posts about FCCF as they are all so emotionally charged. So I can’t really respond to the discussions. However, as to why we left, it boils down to a few things. 1) We lost respect for the elders who in our opinion failed to hold Steve accountable. 2) We lost respect for the ministers who in our opinion chose to remain @ FCCF knowing the dysfunction and choosing to do nothing about it. 3) We lost respect for Steve who in our opinion knowingly lied and deceived the ministers, elders and congregation, all who were unwilling or unable to question anything that came out of his mouth for fear of retribution.
Former Member: We made many life-long friends there. We have so many good memories so all of this saddens us as well. We considered speaking with Steve before we left , but heard of so many others who had gone before us, including many who would have considered Steve their friend, who came away humiliated, so we felt that would be fruitless. We approached the elders to voice our concerns; one chose to come to our home. His responses to our concerns seemed scripted & rehearsed. Never did we feel our concerns were heard or questions answered. We were @ FCCF for 17 years… I would have considered us to be a “core family.”
When we left, not one elder or minister reached out to us to ask why. Ask other families who left and I’m sure most will share that experience. Stop and look back at all of the ministers who chose to leave rather than remain under Steve’s leadership. Some barely got unpacked before leaving. Look at the elders who first in one wave, then another, stepped down. Look at all of the core families who left.
We believe there is a systemic problem that is rooted in Steve that has woven its way through the remaining ministry staff & elders. I believe God can still do amazing things in N County through FCCF. However, until the body awakens to the issues and roots out the cause, they will be destined to see the pattern continue.
One final note… We know when we left we were labeled by some as “Michael Frost Followers.” That was not the truth. Now some are questioning whether the first wave of families left because we somehow knew of the B Milburn issues. That also has no merit. We knew nothing about it until we saw it on the news. The sad, but honest reasons we left are cited above. We praise God. He led us to an amazingly healthy, though admittedly not perfect church. “
Current Teacher: “Earlier I was informed that I am no longer allowed to lead #### because of our decision to redirect our tithes until this mess is resolved. “
Current Teacher: Doug Lay has been told he can no longer teach his Sunday School Class. Steve does not own the church and should not be leading the eldership. The Biblical standard is for Steve to serve the Elders. He should fall under their authority.
Our Tithes and offerings are no longer designated as to which area of ministry to support. Your tithes and offerings are put into one large budget that is then distributed as needed to various ministries. Steve Wingfield makes those decisions. If tithes are withheld, many staff members are concerned that they will not be paid. The mortgage may fall behind. Ministries will suffer.
Ministry funds: “Steve Wingfield starting attending mission meetings approximately 2 years ago. He told the committee that the elders had told him he is in charge of the funds and that he has been given the authority to give mission money to whomever he wanted. The only purpose of the rest of the committee is to do things that need to be done, for instance, put labels on all the water bottles that were handed out for the Run Darren Run thing.
When Eric & Melissa Davis came back from France they had planned to leave for West Africa the first of the year but PBT wouldn’t let them because of the Ebola outbreak. Steve told Eric because he & Melissa were not on the mission field FCCF could no longer support them at this time. He never told the committee this, we found it out another way. We are unable to get mission giving reports also I have asked since the first of the year and still have not received one.” Steve does not own the church and should not be in anyway in charge or contact with the funds.