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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.

20 Feb '12

The Five Dysfunctions of Ministry Organizations

1. Ambiguity. 
Lacking clarity around who we are, what we are about and how we are going to get there. Job one of leaders is to provide maximum clarity to those they lead. Job two of leaders is to ensure that there is alignment throughout the organization around that clarity and job three is to ensure that there are results based on that clarity. Lack of clarity (ambiguity) is at the heart of much ministry dysfunction since in the absence of clarity, people will fill the hole with their own individual clarity withe the end result of competing agendas.

2. Control
Permission withholding organizations (you cannot do it without my permission) are dysfunctional organizations. Healthy organizations have great clarity and empower people within certain parameters. In unhealthy organizations leaders or boards feel they must control what happens. Of course if you don't have clarity, you don't know what you can and cannot do without permission. So lack of clarity feeds the need to control and control feeds the next dysfunction of bureaucracy. 

3. Bureaucracy
Bureaucracy is control gone amuk where permission, assent or funding must be negotiated with multiple individuals or groups (committees, boards) in order to get something done. This is the way many churches operate. And staffs, where there are endless reports to be made, forms to be filled out, permission to be gotten or forgiveness to be asked for (when the prior requirements were not kept). Bureaucracy is a means to control when one has not clearly defined the boundaries for a permission granting structure, or when a leader or group of leaders (boards) feel they need to control through creating multiple toll booths.  Bureaucracy is not to be confused with structure which every ministry needs. Bureaucracy is control gone amuk where order is kept by creating many checks on what can or cannot be done in a permission withholding culture.

4. Mistrust
It should come as no surprise that mistrust is the result of the first three dysfunctions. In fact, the need to control and put in place bureaucracies has at its core a mistrust of staff to make their own wise decisions (based on clarity and boundaries). Lack of clarity creates mistrust because the end result becomes competing agendas. Control breeds mistrust because it is obnoxious. Bureaucracy breeds mistrust because it is onerous. Dysfunctional organizations have a great deal of mistrust - the very system creates mistrust. Permission withholding cultures create mistrust. And, lack of trust, destroys healthy team dynamics. 

5. Professional Ministry
Professional ministry is the result of a failure to develop, empower and release others in ministry. Rather than hiring staff to develop others, we hire staff to do ministry for others. It is the subtle or not too subtle message that God has an A team and a B team, those called into full time ministry and the rest who are not. Qualifications for real ministry reside in theological education (never confuse education with ability). The dysfunction of  professional ministry is largely the reason that the church has so little influence in the community at large. 

If your team or organization suffers from any of these five, or all of  these five, two of my books, Leading From the Sandbox and High Impact Church Boards will help you escape from the dysfunction trap.