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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

10 Apr '14

Ways that pastors disempower their staff

I frequently talk with church staff who live with disempowering pastors. Ironically, these same pastors are often deeply loved by their congregations who experience a life giving leader while those who work for him experience a life taking leaders. While almost never intentional, the actions of pastors who disempower staff cause discouragement, mistrust and cynicism among staff. Pastoral staff rarely have received training in leading, developing healthy teams or supervision which may be the reason that staff dysfunction is so common.

Here are some common ways that senior pastors disempower their staff.
  • Do not develop cultures where robust dialogue can take place. Too many senior pastors take any disagreement as a personal attack which means that they effectively shut down discussion on important ministry issues with those whom they work with.
  • Using the God card to manipulate staff. "I am concerned about your spiritual walk," or "Your theology is wrong." Such God talk shuts down conversation rather than inviting it.
  • Not preparing for staff meetings. The vast majority of church staff I talk to indicate that their leader is not ready for meetings and seems to be bored by them. Of course, that is a waste of time for everyone present and it sends a message that staff are not an important investment of their time.
  • Not giving feedback unless it is negative. Lack of encouragement is deeply discouraging.
  • Changing their mind. A common scenario is that senior leaders ask a staff member to work a certain issue and after the work is done, unexplicitly change their mind and either change what has been done or go a different direction completely.
  • Make last minute changes to programs or weekend services which sets off a chair reaction of people that need to be redeployed to meet the leaders's wishes.
  • Are not open to suggestions or feedback. They expect staff to jump to their needs but are not open to hearing the opinions or feedback of staff.
  • A mentality that staff are there to serve them rather that they are there to serve their staff. A disconnect with what Jesus has to say about leadership.
  • A lack of significant relationships with staff. Trust comes with relationship and in the absence of relationship that trust is often non-existent.
  • Lack of empowerment of staff to do their jobs. Micromanagement kills staff morale.
The fact is that many church staff cultures are toxic and unhealthy and when that is the case, the person responsible is the senior leader who has not created a healthy ethos. Often it reflects a pastor who has problematic EQ. Church boards need to hold their senior leaders accountable for the health of the staff as well as the health of the congregation. Allowing toxicity in the staff is not consistent with what we espouse as a church.

When we disempower or mistreat those who work for us in the name of ministry or Jesus we have a major disconnect. When we talk of the fruit of the spirit and transformation but it is not reflected in our own staff relationships it is a sign that attention needs to be paid to the culture of our ministry. Our internal culture must reflect our external culture. 

If you hare a senior pastor are you willing to ask your staff if any of these examples apply to you? If you are not, it is an indication of your own fear. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so.

(Posted from Oakdale, MN)