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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.

07 Apr '13

Church boards and fear

Posted by T.J. Addington in church boards, fear, unhealthy boards

All too often church boards are unwilling to make strategic directional and ministry decisions because of fear. Fear that someone will not be happy with the decision. Fear that conflict or controversy might erupt. As a result many church boards provide a terribly low level of leadership. It is as if, not doing anything that would ruffle the waters is their true job when nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the realities of life is that most people do not like change. It takes them out of their comfort zone and they like the predictability and comfort of the status quo. Studies on change show that within the general population, 2.5 percent are innovators; 13.5 percent are early adopters; 34 percent are early majority; 34 percent are late majority; and 16 percent are laggards (Rogers, The Diffusion of Innovation).

Most people don't like change. Yet the mission of the church is a distinctly missional one - to take territory for Christ and that means there is a constant need to get people out of their comfort zones and engaged in strategic efforts to introduce people to Jesus and help them grow.

What do leaders need to know when they propose bold initiatives of ministry?
  • Many people will react with skepticism or negatively at first - this is normal
  • Some loud voices will be heard in opposition - this is normal
  • Some might threaten to leave the church - this is normal
  • Some may well leave the church - this is normal
  • Some will take shots at the leaders - this is normal
The question is not whether some or all of these normal events will happen. The question is whether leaders will be intimidated and run for cover. 

Unfortunately that is also too often normal but it is cowardice, not leadership. It is to abandon their leadership role to help the church be as effective in carrying out the commission Christ left it as they can be.

Here is an interesting thought. In an evangelical church, most if not all of those who push back on new ministry initiatives will be in heaven one day. But, most of the community around us will not be, unless we boldly lead. Thus, to be held hostage by those who know Jesus but don't like change is to abandon those who will not be reached unless we move forward. Which is the greater value?

I have watched once vital churches decline significantly in attendance and effectiveness because leaders would not lead in the face of those who resisted change. I am sad for those churches. I understand the resistance to change. But I do not understand the lack of courage, will, fortitude, resolve and commitment of the leaders. That to me is the truly sad thing.

If you are a leader, do not be intimidated by those who resist change. That is normal. Rather be motivated by the responsibility God has given you to lead His church into the most effective ministry possible. That is a divine mandate.