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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.

06 Mar '12

A failure of nerve

Leaders are periodically faced with issues or situations that they know in their gut ought to be addressed because they are threats to the success of the ministry. It is amazing how often, however, that they choose not to act on what they know, somehow hoping that the situation will right itself and continue on as if the threat did not exist.


It is simply a failure of nerve and it is a leadership failure.


Ministry and church boards are guilty and leaders at all levels are guilty of this when they know there is a threat to the organization but fail to address it. And it happens far more often than we would like to admit.


Boards and leaders have a great capacity to gloss over, ignore, put off, or explain away threats because they do not have the willingness and courage to name what is and figure out how to deal with it. In fact, most crises when they occur do so because there is a history of not dealing with an issue long before it damaged the ministry. The crisis is not really a surprise and was probably inevitable because the factors leading up to it were know but not dealt with along the way. Someone did not want to face hard facts.


Why do boards and leaders ignore issues that later on often become a crisis? They simply lack the nerve to address what they know to be true. This is true of the mission leader who knows that if they do not make radical shifts in philosophy they will go into decline. 


It is true of church boards that don't deal with pastors who leave large numbers of bodies in their wake. It is true of ministries that don't deal with financial issues. It is true of ministries that are in organizational drift. There are many scenarios but the common element is that someone in leadership is not willing to deal with a threat that they know to be real. 


A failure of nerve is a leadership failure that often leads to organizational crisis that could and should have been avoided. The sad thing is that in not addressing a known issue, the leader(s) have set the organization up for great pain that will impact many people and derail the ministry's success for a long period of time if not permanently. 


Most ministry crisis can be traced back to current or prior leaders who chose not to address a known issue. The result is that someone else must now deal with an even greater issue and the mission of the organization has been compromised. Their choice to ignore what they knew to be true was the true cause of the crisis that eventually occurred. 


It takes courage to lead. What we do about issues we know should be addressed as leaders or boards has significant long term ramifications. Our inaction will most likely cause harm to the ministry in the long term, hurt people in the process, and cause a larger problem in the future. A failure of nerve is simply a failure of courage to address what we know to be true. It is a leadership failure!


Those who ignore known issues are just as guilty for a crisis as those who caused them. Both are part of the cause. Sometimes they are one and the same.