I have worked at a lot of different churches each with a variation of a standard leadership model. I wish I could say one was better than the other, but I can’t. What I can say is that if you have one type of leadership model at your church you most likely need to try a different one. If you are a congregation led church, you should try being a pastor/leadership team led church. If you are a pastor/ leadership led church, you should try being a congregation led church. If you are a pastor led church, you should try being a board led church. If you are a board led church, you should try being a pastor led church. How is that for stirring the pot?
When you fail to challenge your authority someone else should.
As a pastor there is nothing I dislike more than the person or board that thinks their calling or position requires them to play devil’s advocate. Unhealthy churches often spend more time defending their plans than they do putting them into action. On the flipside, it can be just as unhealthy to put plans into action without having to justify them at all. Leadership is a very popular topic in the church with many shelves in Christian books stores and web pages of online sellers dedicated to the latest “how-to do leadership” books. I think leadership experts have missed something or at least not given it the print it deserves. We should each challenge the authority we have assumed before someone else does.
Position, power and authority do not always belong to the same person or group of people.
In a time when many leadership specialists try to help churches become more effective, I see pastors, boards and congregations becoming more and more frustrated as they attempt to apply the practices being taught. At the heart of their frustration is confusion over how position, power and authority relate to each other. When a congregational approach is used, the pastor and board often feel they are lobbyists seeking the support of the congregation for the ideas they have developed. In a pastor led church, the congregation often feels like they are the money machine for the pastor’s dreams and the board feels like it is there to quash any uprising against the direction the pastor is taking even if they themselves are unsure it is the right way to go. In a board led church, the pastor can feel like he lives to appease the board and to appease the congregation so he can keep his job. The board rules but the pastor pays the price for any missteps.
In business there is no question, the person with position has the power and is assigned authority.
In churches, position can belong to an individual or group. Position is usually based on fulfilling the governing documents. In most cases either the congregation makes the choices directly or chooses someone else to make the choices – board members and/or staff members. Power, on the other hand, is often assumed by the strongest personalities even if they do not occupy a position. This rarely exists in the business world but when it does take place it’s called bullying. Maybe it should be called the same in the church. Authority in the business world is assigned by the person above you, your boss. Authority in the church should follow the same model but with one huge difference; authority in the church is to be assigned by God, the real boss.
In church, the person(s) given authority by God should be given the position and power by the congregation.
Notice I said, given authority by God. This is not a popularity contest or a best educated/most experienced scenario, this is about calling. Regardless of the leadership model, no one should be given position and/or power unless they are first called by God. People living out their general calling as followers of Christ and their specific calling in the body of Christ, have God as the ultimate authority who in turn gives them their authority. Their decisions as congregants, board/committee members and as pastors are firmly rooted in discernment through prayer. People living for their own interests seek influence, power and position often considering themselves as the authority on how the church should proceed. Their decisions are impacted by their desire to be in control, get their own way and be seen as highly important and difficult to replace. This can apply to an individual pastor or pastoral staff, a board member or entire board, a congregation member or entire congregation.
General consensus is usually about the opinion of those with power. General consensus should about discerning what God is calling us to do so we do it with His power.
When we put aside our own preconceived notions on authority it doesn’t matter what leadership model we use, God is central. He hands out authority to those who He knows are best suited for the power and position. The best thing we can do is question our authority to make sure it is from God and not assumed based on prestige or assigned based on church government structure. If you are unsure if you and/or your church are operating within the boundaries of God’s given authority, try a different leadership model as an experiment or at least test it out in theory. If power and position is shifted to another group or individual in the church what happens? If God is in control, and the church is discerning His call, it won’t matter what leadership model you use, those leading will lead by allowing the person(s) God has chosen to exercise the authority He has given them.