It seems common today in church ministry that tension exists between the pastor or pastoral staff and the lay leadership of the church. This shows up especially during regular Board meetings of the church. Though lay leaders are chosen to work alongside the pastor, they typically find themselves in conflict — often over trivial matters. The relationship is adversarial rather than collegial.
Sometimes it may seem that a pastor is consistently challenged about the ideas that he or she puts forward for change. Other times, Board members may feel that they cannot reasonably challenge the ideas of the pastor for fear of causing conflict or being regarded as naysayers. But the sense of disagreement may be there none-the-less.
This is a serious matter not only because it hinders the progress of the church but because it is contrary to what God intended about the relationship between people in the church. God’s desire is for the members of the church to be united in spirit, functioning in that relationship by speaking the truth in love about every matter that comes before them. Instead, it seems, that pastor and lay leaders often proceed under a cloak of false unity because there are certain subjects that they are unwilling to address.
It is absolutely essential that pastoral leaders take the responsibility for ensuring that members of the Board function as a team in leading the church. Even though the potential for serious conflict may exist, it is important for the pastor and lay leaders to talk together about issues that everyone feels need to be addressed.
How can the pastor and lay leaders ensure that they are functioning as a team under the leadership of Christ Himself?
- The Pastor is responsible to ensure that the best possible people are chosen for leadership in the church based on biblical qualifications and common recognition.
- The Pastor needs to take responsibility to teach about a pastoral approach rather than a business approach to the work of the church. (Too often tensions exist because the Board sees itself merely as the employer of the pastor who is its chief executive officer instead of the shepherd of the flock.)
- The Pastor needs to take responsibility to build a good personal and pastoral relationship with each of the Board members so that the spiritual and social relationship that God has called them into is meaningful.
- The Pastor needs to teach about the nature and significance of servant leadership which, among other things,is characterized by communication skills such as active listening an assertiveness.
- The Pastor needs to lead in helping the members of the Board come to conclusions together about the vision and mission of the church instead of assuming sole responsibility for forming and promoting these important matters.
- Board members need to be taught to value and appreciate everyone’s perspective and contribution toward a common solution to the needs of the church.
- Board members should respect the fact that the pastor’s role is significant as a coach for the team because of his/her calling, theological education, gifts of pastoral leadership, and amount of time committed to the task. But in meeting together, it is essential that the members of the Board be led in hearing the voice of the Lord together about what His will is in any particular matter.
- If the church is relatively mature, it probably is a good idea to have a well-qualified lay person lead the Board meetings (rather than the Pastor) in order to encourage the development of a team approach. However, this assumes that the Pastor is deeply involved in preparing the agenda and reviewing it with the chairperson of the Board.
There are other practical matters to consider, but the bottom-line for team leadership development in the church is open and honest communication in the bonds of Christian love and grace. Blessed is the church that is led by a group of people who strive for an experience of authentic team leadership! And what a joy it is for those who serve together in Christ on such a team!