The best advice I’ve ever received from a professional coach is about roles. If roles are clear and balanced and understood, organizations thrive.
In Church World, conflicts distract us from doing real ministry, and those conflicts are often about roles. For example:
- The Clerk of Session (or President of the Governing Board or the Moderator of the Deacons) is not the Assistant Pastor. When there is confusion about authority, conflict ensues.
- The Pastor is not the janitor. Yes, the Pastor might wipe up spilled coffee, but God has not called the Pastor to spend the day washing windows or sweeping the sanctuary.
- The Organist is not in charge of worship. Depending on your denomination’s polity, the organist/musician/worship leader might be part of the team, but the lead pastor’s role is to craft the message of the day.
- The Preschool Director is not the Treasurer. It’s inappropriate for the Preschool Director to sign checks for supplies and payroll.
- The Pastor is not God. This means: 1) The Pastor is not called to lord over God’s people and 2) The Pastor is imperfect.
As we all know, when there’s a vacuum, someone often steps in to fulfill a role and unhealthy habits result. We’ve all experienced this: the church administrator who kind of wants to be the pastor and relishes in “knowing everything” or the long time elder who refuses to relinquish power even to the new pastor.
I feel a little ridiculous even writing about this because Jesus didn’t die for any of these conflicts. Too many of our congregations are wrapped up in power plays or personality disputes and the world find new reasons to ignore the Gospel.
There is too much work to do for us to waste our time doing someone else’s ministry.