If I push and you pull, we have movement, things get done. If we both push, or both pull, we often create an immovable object. Church ministries should not be immovable objects.
However as soon as a local church hires staff they are bound to start having some issues with management. Management done well will enable the church to function properly; management done poorly will cripple the mission.
While there are many ways that pastors can be poor managers there are two keys to all successful management practices in the local church. The first is equity between authority and responsibility, and the second is servant leadership.
Authority and responsibility
When responsibility and authority are blurred, what needs to be accomplished may be clear but the “who” is uncertain. Responsibility indicates an obligation to perform or oversee a particular function but doesn’t necessarily transfer authority or power to accomplish the function. Authority is usually defined as the legitimate right to make decisions. The person with the authority has the most influence in accomplishing the objective.
Equity between authority and responsibility is accomplished when the appropriate influence or authority is delegated along with responsibility. Managers and employees including church employees will feel frustrated and handicapped if they don’t have the proper equity between the responsibility that they have been given, and the authority to carry it out.
When they get pushed, they have no pull and no authority to accomplish the task at hand. When they are granted too much authority, they often will pull too much of the rest of the organization out of balance. This balance is constantly in flux and the communication going up and down needs to be clear, constant and unambiguous.
Secondly, at the heart of management within the church is servant leadership. Jesus exemplified servant leadership continually in ministry, from washing his disciples’ feet to dying for our sin. Jesus told us, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-27)
Servant leadership also balances the sometimes overbearing authority of a powerful board or Senior Pastor. Yes, boards and pastors also need to understand that they may have the authority, but authority must have equity with the responsibilities within the organization. Understanding that serving and honoring others before ourselves, helps keep that balance in check.
by Ken Behr
Reprint from ChurchExecutive May 2010