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04 Jul '11

Every congregation is one leadership board away from trouble and decline

Posted by T.J. Addington in church boards, church health, church leadership
I am grieving for another pastor who is leaving his church because of pain inflicted by some members of the congregation and an unhealthy board.

Like so many church boards there is deep dysfunction on this one. It is a passive board that does not lead but simply reacts.  Members feel free to come and air their complaints and criticisms against the pastor leaving him bruised and beaten up - often without even knowing the facts. Meetings that should be confidential are not always confidential. It has no ability to hold board members accountable. Staff feel free to go around their senior pastor directly to board members and some board members have developed alliances with members of the staff that are counterproductive. All of this with a church that has already been in serious decline and trouble for some years.


Pastors can take a lot of hits if they know their board is behind them. But when they don't have a unified and healthy board, they are left vulnerable and unprotected. I have been in that situation and many other pastors have as well.

This is not a renegade pastor. He is well trained, a good expositor and wise (despite his young age) but he has been sabotaged  by a board that does not have its act together, is divided, and cannot chart a common course either for the church or for its support of the pastor that they called just a few years ago.

Divided boards create a divided congregation and that is just what has happened in this situation. Time after time, this board has been tepid in its support of the one they called and were then surprised when he resigned. The ineptness of the board has damaged an already damaged congregation by its actions. In fact, I predict that this congregation that has already suffered deep pain will go even deeper into decline by the actions of its board. Further, any wise candidate in the future will read the writing on the wall and decline to come leaving them with an undiscerning candidate who wants a job. Thus the cycle is likely to repeat itself.

When confronted with their actions, some members of this board refused counsel. The prediction of that counsel has now come to pass. Another pastor is gone, the congregation is divided and further losses are inevitable. They live with an attitude that things are well and healthy. Unfortunately because of their past actions, many of the healthy leaders have have already migrated out of the church, unwilling to live with the dishealth they observed.


Here is the principle. Every congregation is one leadership board away from trouble and decline. This congregation is paying the price of poor, unhealthy and dysfunctional leadership. And, the end result will most likely be a long period before the congregation is healthy if it every regains health - which is an open question. When the leaders don't understand their lack of health, there is little chance for congregations to become healthy.


My concern is both for the congregation that suffers from the poor leadership of its board and for another pastor who is temporarily or permanently out of ministry. The pain of the congregation is high, and for the pastor - exceedingly deep. And in the end, it is the board that is responsible for both. 


Board members are under shepherds of the Lord of the Church. They will one day answer for their their actions, their decisions, their decisions and their wisdom. Many will receive a reward from Christ as "good and faithful servants." Others will receive hard questions as to their lack of faithfulness, wisdom and ultimately poor care for their flock. I bless the former and fear for the latter. 

Too many boards and board members of local churches take their mandate too carelessly. They often do not understand good leadership, lack wisdom and in the end hurt rather than help the people they lead. Such is the case in the church I am watching at the moment. It makes me sad and I am certain it makes the Lord of the church sad as well. It is also why over eighty percent of the congregations in the United States are either plateaued or in decline. Guard the gate of your leadership. Hold your board accountable for healthy practices and pray for wisdom on their part.