03 Jun '13
The dysfunction of control in ministry organizations
Posted by T.J. Addington
Control is the opposite of empowerment. Empowerment releases people within specified boundaries to use their gifts and abilities for maximum ministry impact with definable ministry outcomes. All too often, leaders or an organization's culture mitigate against empowerment and exercise stringent control over people and methodologies.
Control is not always overt but it has the same consequences as if it were. My own organization used to insist that there were only a few ways to do church planting around the world. People who were entrepreneurial and tried other methodologies were sometimes marginalized because they did not use the prescribed methods. The 'system' (beliefs and practices) was the controlling factor.
In local churches, many congregations have the sense that they must control their leaders, insisting that all decisions come back to them. Many leadership boards believe that they need to control the staff or they might do something unwise. Staff members often believe that they need to control volunteers to guard the quality of ministry and on it goes.
The worst form of control comes in the form of a church 'boss' who has the power to hold informal veto power over any key ministry decision, and/or an insecure leader who must micro-manage staff and activities out of his or her need to know everything, have a hand in everything and take the credit for everything.
Good leaders and good organizations and good teams empower people for ministry within appropriate boundaries and encourage them to play to their strengths in alignment with their gifts. Jesus empowered His disciples, and the leaders He left behind were told to empower and release others - the theme of Ephesians 4. Leaders determine whether their culture empowers its people or controls its people.
Healthy leaders and organizations empower while unhealthy leaders and organizations control. The first encourages people to use the best of their gifts and abilities while the second disempowers and discourages.