Administration http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:02:41 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 3 Ways to Help Your Assistant Pastor Minister More Effectively http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21114-3-ways-to-help-your-assistant-pastor-minister-more-effectively http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21114-3-ways-to-help-your-assistant-pastor-minister-more-effectively

I have been an assistant for much of my time in ministry. Some pastors have treated me with the utmost respect. I have seen other pastors who treat their assistants almost as slaves, giving them the least desirable jobs and neglecting acknowledgment of the work that they do.

Senior pastors should note that they are not the only ones who are giving their time and energies to the church. Many of these assistants are in part-time situations, and sometimes they are not even paid at all. But these assistants finish their work in industry and then come to ministry to seek to give their talents to God.

There are, in my estimation, three steps that a senior pastor must follow if he is to have effective assistant ministers:

1. Respect your assistants. There are many senior pastors who show by the way that they treat their assistants that they do not respect them. In my position as Web Minister of SoulPreaching.Com, I often hear stories and get emails from assistants who have been treated with less than respect from the senior pastor. One pastor simply canceled an ordination on the day of the ordination for some silly reason. The ordinate had people in town and was put in a very embarrassing situation.

Another senior pastor kicked off a special initiative where his assistants were to take on some significant ministry responsibilities. At the prayer of initiation, the senior pastor prayed "even though they ain't nothing but assistants, one day they may be senior ministers." Belittling the work of those who work 40 to 50 hours a week and then attempt to give some time to the church is not the way to respect your assistants.

2. Acknowledge their work. Another step to effective assistants is to acknowledge their work. This includes both acknowledgment of the assistants' work and the assistant who did the work. I remember working on starting a new ministry in a church. The pastor emphasized that the new ministry had been started, but he never acknowledged that I was the one who did the work. Sometimes the pastor will argue...you did it for God and not for man, therefore God will acknowledge you.

This may be true, but it is the utmost of disrespect to acknowledge the work and ignore the worker. It is a shame when God has to find some other person besides the senior minister to praise the work of an assistant. Ignore your assistants too many times and you may have less help in your next big ministry thrust.

3. Utilize them. One final thing you must do to have an effective cadre of assistant ministers is that you must utilize them. This means that you determine what your assistants can do, and you use them in that ministry. Underutilized and/or non-utilized assistant ministers will be a cause of strife and contention in the church. Ultimately, your group of assistants is a resource that God has given your church. If you fail to utilize them, you are failing in your stewardship of one of the greatest gifts to your church.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds an M.Div with an emphasis in homiletics and an M.S. in computer science. Visit Sherman at soulpreaching.com.

For the original article, visit soulpreaching.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Sherman Haywood Cox II) Administration Wed, 06 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
5 Pleas From Pastors to Search Committees http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21089-5-pleas-from-pastors-to-search-committees http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21089-5-pleas-from-pastors-to-search-committees

On occasion, I provide updates on issues and strategies regarding pastor search committees. Congregations across America call pastors to their churches in a variety of ways.

As church polity varies, so do the approaches of calling a pastor. A bishop or other authority appoints some pastors. Sometimes an elder board decides who will be considered as the next pastor. Many times, however, the responsibility for recommending a pastor to a congregation falls upon a pastor search committee.

The search committee is typically comprised of lay leaders voted on by the congregation or nominated by some group in the church. Occasionally, the membership may include a current pastoral staff member.

It is this latter approach, the utilization of a pastor search committee, which I would like to address in this article. Specifically, I want to share the perspective of many pastors about the process.

On numbers of occasions, pastors have shared with me some challenges they have experienced with search committees. In this article, I present them as five pleas from pastors:

1. "Consider carefully how you first contact me." It can be highly disruptive to my present ministry if you just show up at my church. And remember that if you send an email to me at my church, others may read it.

2. "Please stay in touch with me." I can feel like I am in limbo if I don't hear anything from you for a long time. I would rather be told that you are moving in another direction than not to hear anything.

3. "If I am called to your church, please let the congregation know the issues you and I agreed upon." For example, if you are letting me hire my own staff rather than it going through a personnel committee, please let the church know this change is taking place before you present me.

4. "Clarify both the strengths and the challenges of the church before I come." Do your best so I will not be surprised by the major struggles and challenges. I can deal with them better if I know about them in advance.

5. "Understand that if I come to the church, my entire family will be a part of the transition." So please talk to my spouse about the issues, challenges, and opportunities. Include the entire family, not just me.

At any given time in a year, as many as 50,000 congregations are searching for a pastor. The implications of the challenges and possible misunderstandings are many. These pleas from pastors are sound and reasonable.

Let me know what you think about these five pleas. Next week, I will address the pleas of search committee members to pastors.

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Administration Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
How to Avoid Hiring a Staff Infection http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21079-how-to-avoid-hiring-a-staff-infection http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21079-how-to-avoid-hiring-a-staff-infection

In most cases, your church's hiring practices will have major ramifications that reach beyond your awareness. It's not just a matter of whether a candidate can do the job or not. The real impact of your hiring decision will be seen in:

  • How they interact with your church members
  • Whether they make the people around them better or bitter
  • The amount they "buy into" the overall mission of your church
  • How passionate and loyal they are toward the people they serve

There are plenty of basic "measurable" by which to judge a potential staff member such as education, experience, and skills. But those sort of issues only deal with the science of hiring—not the art.

The art of hiring requires more observation and interaction. It is hard work to be sure—but well worth it.

Some key questions that a church should ask when hiring staff are:

Will this person fit in our church's culture? It has been said that culture trumps strategy every time. This doesn't mean that the new hire must come from the same culture (He doesn't have to be a city slicker to minister in NYC), but instead that he can fit in that culture. It's really a question of the person's adaptability. The last thing you want to do is hire someone who will always feel (and act) like they are a fish out of water. That's not helpful for the church or for them. We are all different, and we must recognize that we all have different levels of adaptability.

Discerning whether the prospect will be a good fit for your church's culture means that you must first identify your culture! Is it a busy or laid back culture? Is it a meeting driven or relationship driven culture? Is it a culture of calm or chaos? Is it formal or informal? How do people view the importance of appearances, grammar, professionalism, availability, etc?

After getting a clear picture of your own culture, take the time to ask about the prospects current cultural environment. Take note of which elements make the comfortable or uncomfortable. Consider visiting them in their current setting. Be open with them about your culture. Be transparent about things you think they will and won't be comfortable with.

Don't overlook this. I've seen too many good men leave the ministry because they got chewed up and spit out –all due to cultural difficulties.

What drives this person? Past success is not always a positive on a resume. Consider what drove the person to that success. Was it greed or a hunger for power? That's probably not the kind of person you want to hire.

So how can you find out what drives them and motivates them? I think there are two main ways. First, spend plenty of time listening to the person. Most people, if given enough time, will talk about what is most important to them. This requires more than just the time of a formal interview, so you will want to schedule a few other times to meet with them for extended periods (dinner at your home, etc). If they tend to talk about themselves, their possessions, or their accomplishments more than their family, their friends, and their faith; you should see red flags.

If you hire a person with sinful motives, one of two things will happen. The church will eventually have a scandal on its hands, or the church will always sense something is wrong. Since most churches avoid firing staff barring a moral failure, this misery could go on for years and damage a church for decades. I've seen it happen.

Will his family be on board? The Bible makes it clear that pastors should lead their family well. After all, if they can't lead their family, how will they lead the church?

But beyond the minister's ability to lead his family, consideration must be given to how the family feels about the possible move. If a family is divided over a ministry environment, it will soon become obvious to the church.

Family members who aren't on board will tend to withdraw and sometimes even resent the location. This presents all sorts of problems. A congregation's suspicions may turn to gossip and mistrust.

The prospect should be asked if he has discussed the possible move with his family and what their reaction was. Further, if the candidate moves forward in the process, his wife (and possibly children) should be engaged in the conversation.

Issues of culture, motivation, and family will not show up on a resume. They are not easily measured or reported. And yet, they are among some of the most important factors in hiring new staff. It is better to not make the hire if you can't make the right hire. It saves everyone a lot of time, energy, and heartache!

Scott Attebery is executive director of DiscipleGuide Church Resources, a department of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. You can read his blog at ScottAttebery.com.

For the original article, visit scottattebery.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Scott Attebery) Administration Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
7 Ways to Know It's Time to Move On http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21077-when-is-it-time-for-a-pastor-to-move-on http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21077-when-is-it-time-for-a-pastor-to-move-on

I am reticent to write this article. I do not want to encourage pastors to leave churches too early.

Frankly, many pastors have shared with me that, in the aftermath of their departures, they realized they had made a mistake. They left too soon.

Many times the departure takes place between years two and four of a pastor's tenure. That is the typical period when the "honeymoon" is over and some level of conflict, even crises, have begun. Many pastors who made it to years five and beyond express thanksgiving that they did not depart in those more difficult early years.

I confess that I left a church too soon. My family's income was below the poverty line, and I was too proud to express my financial needs to any trusted church leader. The church's income had tripled in my three-year tenure, so I could have easily been paid more. And I have little doubt that some of the leaders in the church would have gladly helped. My stupid and sinful pride got in the way.

So I have asked over 30 pastors why they left their previous church. Obviously, my survey is both informal and small. Still, the responses were both fascinating and telling. Here are the top seven responses in order of frequency, and they are not always mutually exclusive:

1. "I had a strong sense of call to another church." This response was articulated in a number of different ways, but the essence was the same. Slightly over half of the respondents left because of the "pull" rather than the "push."

2. "I became weary and distracted with all the conflict and criticisms." What leader has not been here? What pastor has not been here? It is often a death by a thousand cuts.

3. "I no longer felt like I was a good match for the church." One pastor shared candidly that he felt like the church outgrew him. He said he had the skill set to serve a church with an attendance of 150. But when it grew to 500 after eight years, he felt that his leadership skills were not adequate to take the church any further.

4. "I left because of family needs." One pastor moved closer to his aging parents who had no one to care for them. Another indicated his family was miserable in their former church location.

5. "I was fired or forced out." This story is far too common. Of course, some of the other factors in this list overlap with this one.

6. "I was called to a different type of ministry." Some left to take a position other than lead pastor in another church. Others went into parachurch or denominational ministry. I am among those who left the pastorate for denominational work.

7. "I was not paid adequately." I related my own story above. Let me be clear. The pastors with whom I spoke were not seeking extravagant pay, just adequate pay. And like me, most of them were uncomfortable broaching the issue with any leaders in the church.

What do you think of these seven factors? What would you add? What have been your experiences?

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Administration Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Are You a Boss or a Leader? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21067-are-you-a-boss-or-a-leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21067-are-you-a-boss-or-a-leader

I have to be honest; I hate the term boss. When someone refers to me as their boss, I almost feel like I'm doing something wrong as a leader.

Forgive me for making me think I'm the boss.

There are so many differences in a boss and a leader, if only in connotation.

A boss seems to have all the answers—even if they really don't. A leader solicits input to arrive at the right answer.

A boss tells. A leader asks.

A boss can be intimidating—if only by title. A leader should be encouraging—even if in a time of correction.

A boss dictates while a leader delegates.

A boss demands while a leader inspires.

A boss controls systems while a leader spurs ideas.

A boss manages policies; a leader enables change.

People follow a leader willingly. You have to pay someone—or force them—to follow a boss.

By connotation, there is really only one boss.

In fairness, there are times I have to be the boss. Even the "bad guy" boss—at least in other people's perception. But I much prefer to be a leader.

In any healthy organization there will be many leaders. Do you work for a boss or do you serve with a leader?

Be honest.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Administration Wed, 16 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Does God Care About Organization? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21061-does-god-care-about-organization http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/21061-does-god-care-about-organization

My top two spiritual gifts are leadership and administration, so the subject of organization is something I love and gravitate toward. If you have the spiritual gift of administration, you love structure, systems, processes and org charts. If you don't, those things probably drive you crazy.

Regardless of your primary gifting, it helps to approach leadership with a 30,000-foot view and try to see the big picture of what's going on in your organization. The way the body of Christ works is if this is difficult for you, surround yourself with other leaders for whom this is natural.

In my travels, speaking, consulting and conversations with leaders of all types, I've discovered a major reason they are not getting the results they desire is due to a system designed to give them the exact result they're getting. If your system is designed to fail, you will fail every time. If your organization's culture is one of creativity, innovation and trust, and you have a healthy system in place, there is no limit to what you as a team can accomplish (through the Holy Spirit).

Do you think the Bible cares about organization? I do. Read the story of Moses and his father-in-law in Exodus 18:13-26.

I thank God for including the story of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. In this story, we see Moses was a man with flaws and had made a poor decision on how to best go about judging the people. Maybe he didn't have the gift of leadership or administration. He did, however, have the wisdom to listen to someone who did, and the Bible tells us this gave Moses new strength to carry out whatever God commanded him. The people also flourished in their settings. It was a win-win.

The book The Externally Focused Quest by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw has some great thoughts on this as well. I could easily quote chapters of it for you, but I'll just encourage you to read it.

It's crucial to recognize your system could be choking the life, health, creativity and innovation out of your organization. My encouragement to you is to have someone with the gift of administration evaluate your systems. This could be someone in your church (maybe a business leader who will volunteer), a gifted staff member, or an outside consultant who can come in and look at the big picture.

One scripture I've found myself quoting to church leaders often is when Jesus told his disciples to be "wise as serpents" (Matt. 10:16). In The Message, verse 16 reads, "be as cunning as a snake." I am often referring to this verse when I'm engaged in helping an organization with strategic planning and overall strategy.

I don't think there's anything wrong with strategy when it comes to church leadership. Of course we need to always be sensitive and open to the Spirit's leading and sudden change, but God can be with us in the strategy and planning of any organization. So as you set up your systems, structure and processes, I would suggest two thoughts: keep it simple, and keep it fluid or flexible.

Neil Cole, director of Church Multiplication Associates said, "Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the transference to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process, the greater the giftedness that is needed to keep it going. The simpler the process, the more available it is to the broader Christian population" (Cultivating a Life for God, page 10).

Albert Einstein said, "Out of complexity, find simplicity." I agree. You might have 75 staff members on your team, but this doesn't mean you can't approach your structure and processes in such a way in which they are simple to share, quote and move people through. Did you know research strongly backs this principle?

The book Simple Church is full of thoroughly researched and proven principles. I want to strongly encourage you to read it if you haven't already. In Simple Church, the authors, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, tell us that, "In general, simple churches are growing and vibrant. Churches with a simple process for reaching and maturing people are expanding the kingdom. Conversely, complex churches are struggling and anemic. Churches without a process or with a complicated process for making disciples are floundering. As a whole, cluttered and complex churches are not alive. Our research shows that these churches are not growing" (Simple Church, page 14).

The preceding is a brief excerpt from one chapter of Greg Atkinson's new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Go to the book's website for more information.

Greg Atkinson is an author, speaker, consultant and the editor of Christian Media Magazine. Greg has started businesses including the worship resource website WorshipHouse Media, a social media marketing company and his own consulting firm.

For the original article, visit gregatkinson.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Atkinson) Administration Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
When Your Pastor is Not a Good Fit For Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20964-when-your-pastor-is-not-a-good-fit-for-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20964-when-your-pastor-is-not-a-good-fit-for-your-church

The committee could not find any specific reasons they wanted the pastor to leave.  Church attendance was healthy, the congregation was responding well to the minister's leadership, and finances were in line with expectations. But there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the preacher, and had been since day one.

"You're just not a good fit for our church" was all the committee could come up with. They wanted him out. If he refused to go peacefully, a movement would be started to oust him forcibly.

If this sounds unlikely to readers, let me assure you it happens quite often.

The wife of a youth minister texted me recently with a similar story about her husband. The administrator and personnel chair had visited him that evening to cut him loose upon just this basis—"you're not a good fit for our church." They informed him the pastor would meet with him the next morning to discuss details of his severance. Just so easily are leaders willing to toy with the lives and ministries of God-called servants as well as with the health, unity and reputation of His churches.

In many cases, what "you're not a good fit" means is that certain members simply dislike the minister. And since they do not like him, clearly, the solution is for him to go back where he came from.

The presumption of some people is truly amazing.

However, for the sake of this discussion, let us assume the delegation visiting the minister to inform him of the misalignment between himself and the congregation is sincere and well-intentioned.

Let's assume they want to do the right thing. Here are some thoughts for them to consider:

1. First, figure out what that means. "The pastor is not a good fit for us" is too general, too fuzzy, too arbitrary. No doubt plenty of people in the church find he "fits" them just fine. So, what does this mean?

Is it about style or substance? Is it doctrinal and basic, or superficial and changeable?

The well-intentioned leaders of the church–those who want to do the right thing here–should not let their colleagues off the hook with the "not a good fit" accusation. Make them get specific.

Don't be surprised if it comes down to something superficial and flimsy like: The women do not like the way his wife dresses; He did not go to the right school; He neglected to honor a certain family in the church; or, worst of all, he wants to live simpler than we want our pastor to live (I mean, look at the neighborhood where they bought a house! And they're sending their children to public school, if you can believe that!).

2. Even if the misalignment is genuine, this can be good for a church. A "fit" that is too comfortable can be a sedative. You want the pastor to be different, stronger, godlier and with better spiritual vision than the rest of the church. You want the pastor to be a pusher, a change agent, one who asks questions and wonders "why don't we do something about this?"

What you do not want is a spiritual leader who is too impressed with you the membership, too thrilled with the prestige of pastoring "this great church" and too excited with himself for being named your pastor.

Pastors are instruments of a holy God sent to lead us, to prod us, to teach us, to comfort us when we need it and to hound us when we are straying.


3. Even so, what "I" want and what "you" want in the pastor has nothing to do with anything. The only question is: Did God send that person to the church?

If God sent him*, please do the Lord the honor of getting out of his way. Do yourself a favor and get on board. Do the church a favor and stand up to those who would oust him because they don't like the way he ties his tie (or the fact that he doesn't wear one at all!) or wears his shirts outside his jeans (Jeans! Horrors!).

The next time you find yourself on a committee that is a) working against the pastor, b) seeking to oust the pastor or c) trying to change the pastor, ask yourself the big question: Why?

Why are we doing this? Who is behind this? Do they have ulterior motives or are they sincerely trying to do the Lord's will? Will the effect of this be to bless that minister's service for Christ or handicap it? Is this worthwhile?

Then ask it of the others on the committee. And do not take anything less than a solid answer.

There are times I will ask my grandchildren a question about their day, their grades, or some activity they're involved in. Often I will preface it with this:  "I want to ask you something. And you are not allowed to say, 'I don't know.' I want an answer." (When done in love and with a sweet spirit, it generally produces the desired effect.)

Sometimes we have to treat our colleagues in church leadership like children and ask for their reasons for what they are doing.

4. Before leaving the subject, let's state the obvious: It is possible for a pastor to be wrong for a church. (Thought I'd never come to that, didn't you? Smiley-face here.)

Perhaps your church is conservative and the pastor is liberal. Your church is Baptist and the pastor is a Jehovah Witness. Your church is mission-minded and the pastor is anti-missions. Your church is in dire need of hands-on leadership and the pastor wants to live in the next town and drive in on weekends.

Nothing about this is good.

Let's admit the obvious here: Sometimes pastor search committees make huge mistakes. And pastors make mistakes too by going to churches they know they are wrong for.

When this happens, the lay leadership of the church has a major responsibility of dealing with it. They should approach it cautiously with prayer and fasting, seeking the Lord's direction on how to proceed. They will want to call in outside counsel from the denomination and other veteran leaders who will have insights on how to proceed. Let them do nothing precipitously and disruptively, but go forward in faith and love, admitting their mistakes and seeking to bless everyone involved.

Let them do nothing to handicap the ministry of a God-called servant, even if it is the unanimous decision that he needs to leave.

Pray for our leaders. Pray for our pastors. Pray for yourself, that the Lord will guide your steps and "help you to walk on your high places" (Habakkuk 3:19).

(*Note: As always, I write from the standpoint of a Southern Baptist. We do not have women pastors, although women serve in leadership positions and on church staffs. Many good churches doing the work of the Lord do have women pastors.)

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Administration Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Why Good Leaders Sometimes Allow a Little Chaos and Confusion http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20960-why-good-leaders-sometimes-allow-a-little-chaos-and-confusion http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20960-why-good-leaders-sometimes-allow-a-little-chaos-and-confusion

I was in a meeting recently and someone defined a leader as one who provides answers and direction to a team. 

I understood their concept. I disagreed with the application. 

In fact, I have a different theory.

Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail. In fact:

  • It can be best for everyone.
  • It often provides the best discoveries.
  • It promotes buy in.
  • It fuels creativity.
  • It fosters teamwork.

As the team wrestles together for answers great discoveries are made—about the team and the individuals on the team. 

If the leader always has everything clearly defined—is always ready with an answer—then why does he or she need a team?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Administration Tue, 03 Jun 2014 13:00:00 -0400
When Should You Call It Quits? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20933-when-should-you-call-it-quits http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20933-when-should-you-call-it-quits

I read an article recently about how to tell when your business needs a new leader. It opens with:

"An entrepreneur should know when it is time to move on for the sake of his or her business. Entrepreneurs who have built a business from the ground up often have strong emotional ties to their companies. Too often though, emotions can get in the way of sound business decisions, and a leadership change may be in order."

The author listed four telltale signs:

  • Your health is declining.
  • You're just not that into the business anymore.
  • Other priorities consume your time.
  • You are hesitant about investing in future growth.

While the church is a body—not a business—these are probably valid issues for a church leader to consider.

In the Old Testament, the timing of a priest taking a lesser role was predetermined. When he turned 50, it was time to pass the baton.

He didn't have to completely go away, but he was no longer on the front line. He could assist, but the younger men did the heavy lifting.

These days it's an inexact science. There are no concrete rules.

Freedom is great, except when it's not. Sometimes it's easier to paint by the numbers. Sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story.

What do you think? How do you know when it's time to step down?

Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the early adopters of the multisite model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Surratt) Administration Fri, 16 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
2 Signs of Abusive Church Authority http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20917-2-signs-of-abusive-church-authority-signs http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20917-2-signs-of-abusive-church-authority-signs
“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.” ―Stanley Milgram 
“Wherever there is a man who exercises authority, there is a man who resists authority.” ―Oscar Wilde 
“Showing a lack of self-control is in the same vein granting authority to others: 'Perhaps I need someone else to control me.'” ―Criss Jami, Venus in Arms 
"Those who whine about parents and authority for too long invariably remain or become narcissists themselves." ―Richard Rohr

The subject of authority and a believer's need to submit to it is a tricky issue. There are two reasons in my opinion that the subject of authority is problematic:

1) Many authorities abuse people.

2) Submission to authority is often associated with personal weakness.

Both of these things are true. There is a long, sordid history in the government and church of authorities abusing those under their authority. Presidents have abused citizens. Church leaders have abused parishioners. Teachers have abused students. Parents have abused children. That's reality in our fallen world.

Also, many of those under authority have allowed authority to shelter them from personal responsibility. It's easier for some for a parent/pastor to tell them what to do than for them to figure it out themselves. Many have turned a blind eye to government abuses because it was easier to play along than to stand up against it.  

Despite all that, Paul says important words in Romans 13 that make me still take authority seriously for myself: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God" (Rom. 13:1, ESV).

This is an amazing statement by Paul. Could it be true that all authority ultimately flows down from God? That the powers that be that we wrestle with obeying now have actually been set in place by God Himself? If Paul is speaking truth here (and my conviction about all of Scripture is that he is), then he's giving me an important framework in which to view all other issues of authority.

The primary thing I take away from Romans 13:1 is that, given the two issues I mentioned before, I still must stay engaged with the authorities in my life. God wants me to stay engaged with the authorities in my life. Do authorities abuse? Yes! Can authorities dictate a person's choices in such a way that that person would cease to grow or take responsibility for their own life? Yes! But does authority still flow from God and need to be respected? Yes!  

There are different types of authority in play in my life. The first is government authority, and I have a strong conviction that I need to obey government authority, even when I don't agree with its mandates, until the point that such obedience causes me to violate a more strongly held conviction from Scripture.

We are fortunate in the United States to live in the form of government that we have. But we are also spoiled. We get up in arms over health care reform or our cows grazing on federal land. In contrast, Jesus' government hung citizens on crosses to die if they disagreed with them. Nevertheless, Jesus obeyed Caesar in every way He could that did not compromise the perfections of God.

I wrestle more with Christian authority than government authority. Does God give us Christian authority to which He wants us to subject ourselves? I've had my own journey on this topic, and I have come full circle—from the child who couldn't wait to get out of her parents' home to the one actively soliciting her parents' advice for the life issues I face, from the church member appalled at the abuses my pastors meted out on other church members to one again actively seeking the wisdom of my council of elders as I walk the road of life.

The truth is that bad authorities and good authorities both exist. Sometimes they exist together in one entity! Scripture teaches us to stay engaged with authority regardless. Stay engaged wisely, but stay engaged. We need authority. Every last one of us need someone speaking into our lives. It is great truth from Proverbs that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.

Having experienced bad church authority in the past, I have two safeguards that are helpful to me as I evaluate it for the future:

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Wendy Alsup) Administration Tue, 06 May 2014 16:00:00 -0400
How to React When a Pastor or Other Leader Experiences a Serious Failing http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20916-how-to-react-when-a-pastor-or-other-leader-experiences-a-serious-failing http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20916-how-to-react-when-a-pastor-or-other-leader-experiences-a-serious-failing

During my career, I’ve dealt with many crisis situations with churches and ministries. Pastors who experience moral failings, staff members embezzling money, leaders who turn out to be pedophiles, serial adulterers, incompetent and much more.

Every situation is different, and the goals include healing the hurt, restoring the leader according to biblical principles and keeping the church healthy. Seeking God is critical, but along with that process, there are some immediate practical choices that have to be made. If you’re a church leader, elder, board member or know someone who is, this is a critical list you should share and keep handy just in case a crisis happens in your church:

1. Prepare for a crisis ahead of time. Research shows that organizations that have a crisis plan recover much more quickly (and with less cost) than those who don’t. And don’t think a crisis can’t happen to you. In today’s complex, Internet-driven world, the chances your church or ministry will have problems has only increased. Pray and hope for the best, but always have a plan if something goes wrong.


2. Get an attorney’s advice immediately. There are numerous legal issues surrounding these types of failings, and you don’t want to put the church at risk. A qualified attorney should be your first call.


3. Know your liability insurance policy. In many cases, lawsuits happen, and a good insurance policy can literally save the church. It’s one thing for a leader to fail but quite another for him or her to take the entire church down because of legal actions. So talk to your insurance agent as well as your attorney, and make sure you’re covered for these types of situations.


4. When a crisis happens, don’t cover it up. In an instant message, texting and email world, word travels fast. Today, we have to be more transparent than ever because we simply can’t hide anymore. Leaks happen, and they will happen to you.


5. Be honest. You don’t have to reveal everything about the situation, but whatever you do, don’t make anything up or hide anything. Even when you think you’re trying to help the situation, lies will be found out. The worst situation is to have to change your story as new information is revealed. So be honest from the beginning.


6. If possible, break the news to your church family first. This is indeed a family, and they need to be told in person. Don’t email the news; tell it to them live. Sometimes that’s difficult if the problem happens early in the week, because it’s tough to keep a lid on it until the weekend services. But if possible, and especially if the news comes to light toward the end of the week, I’m an advocate for sharing the truth with the congregation first. They deserve to hear the real story, not rumors, gossip or the local news version.


7. Then go public and tell the story. Through an official statement, press release or local news story, I encourage the church to tell the story of what happened. You don’t need to go into inappropriate detail, but the story needs to be told. If you don’t, the press will report anything they can find, including rumors, secondhand gossip and speculation. In an online world, if you don’t tell your side of what happened, the other story will remain forever.


8. Seek counseling, healing and restoration for all parties. If the pastor or leader has had an affair, don’t just help the pastor and his family recover. Help the other person as well. It’s difficult to discern who started the relationship, so reach out to both sides. You should be impartial when it comes to helping everyone heal.


9. Pull the pastor's or leader’s content from your website, print materials, church bookstore and everywhere else. After stepping down from leadership because of a failing, his or her presence in these and other places will only confuse the situation. Make a clean break and make it quickly. Sermon DVDs, downloads, podcasts, broadcast radio or TV programming, books and the like should all be pulled. Also, take down the leader’s personal websites and social media platforms. If you don’t, critics will use online photos and videos to make fun of the situation, and it can get ugly.


10. Get communications advice from a professional. Good attorneys can help with the legal issues, but an experienced crisis communications and media professional can help you know what to say, how to say it and when to say it. Writing official statements and press releases can be tricky. Setting up a press conference can backfire. Talk to someone who has been there and can help you plan. The cost will not only save an enormous amount down the road but it can also save the church’s reputation.


11. Start moving the church forward immediately. Members of your congregation will grieve, but for the church to survive, you need to keep moving forward. Tell your leaders, teachers and small groups not to dwell on the failing but to talk about the future. Keep programs intact. Plan new events. Refocus the congregation from the failing in the past to the possibilities of the future.

Be ready for critics of all kinds, because even some Christians inexperienced in these matters will criticize a crisis plan as not being godly or trying to manipulate the truth. But it’s not about manipulation; it’s about being honest. It’s not about contriving a story; it’s about revealing the truth. However, it needs to be handled in an appropriate way so more lives aren’t damaged and the church doesn’t suffer even more.

God is a good God. Restoration and healing can happen. But taking the right steps from the beginning will make a big difference. God forbid anything like this will ever happen to your church, but just in case, share this with your church leadership so they’ll know what to do if and when that time comes.

If you’ve experienced a situation like this at your church or ministry in the past, what are other steps you took that helped?

Phil Cooke, Ph.D., is a filmmaker, media consultant and co-founder of Cooke Pictures in Los Angeles. Find out more at philcooke.com.

For the original article, visit philcooke.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Administration Tue, 06 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Hard Dilemma: Should the Position Be Paid or Volunteer? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20907-hard-dilemma-should-the-position-be-paid-or-volunteer http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20907-hard-dilemma-should-the-position-be-paid-or-volunteer

I received a great question recently. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give a good answer. 

Or, at least, not the answer they were seeking. They wanted an answer that would solve the issue. I couldn’t give that answer. 

This individual is being asked to do a part-time job at the church plant he attends. His job would be launching a new ministry within the church. As with most plants, there is a limited budget, so they can’t afford to pay him. He agrees with the church’s philosophy to mostly have volunteers instead of paid staff.

He believes, however, that this position is too involved to be volunteer—especially for his current life situation. He feels he should be paid if he agrees to take on the challenge, but the leadership disagrees. 

He asked me if I would write a post about when a position should be paid and when it should be volunteer. 

Here is my answer: I wish I could tell you there are hard, set guidelines here, but there aren’t—in my opinion. So much of this issue depends on context. The post I would write, and I think I might, would be more on principle than anything. 

It depends on the church and the individual. And both should be part of the answer. And the answers don’t always easily mesh. 

First, what is best for the church?

For example, some churches are almost all volunteer. Sounds like this church plant is that way. So I would want to know about other similar workload positions in the church. Are they paid or volunteer? 

It’s dangerous to start paying one person and not another with a similar workload, unless there is a valid reason for doing so. It causes tension and disharmony. 

At the same time, churches have to make decisions that are best for the church long-term. Once a decision is made to start paying for a position, that usually locks the church into having that position and the ministry for a long time. If that person leaves the church, most churches will look for someone to replace them. It becomes a part of the annual budget process. That is a big commitment, which should be considered. The same is not necessarily true of a volunteer position. 

Then it also depends on the person.

Can that person commit that much time and be a volunteer? Some can and some can’t. 

I know one very large church—several thousand people attend each week—that has a volunteer executive pastor—and he is full-time. He’s a self-made millionaire and didn’t want the church to pay him. Obviously, this is an extreme example, and most churches couldn’t do that, but there are times the person simply doesn’t need the income for their volunteer efforts. That’s OK—and a huge blessing to the church.

I also know a church that had a single mom as a key volunteer. As her role grew, she needed to be paid in order to handle the extra time she could have worked elsewhere and to pay for her childcare. The church felt it would have been taking advantage of her otherwise. 

A church has to think about what’s fair and equitable for the church and all the individuals involved. 

I advised this gentleman that I would probably be asking myself if I could afford to do this for free or, if I’m going to invest my time—in fairness to myself and family, do I need to be paid? 

The church needs to be asking a fairness question too, because it impacts more people than just this one person. If they pay him, will that open up a need to pay others with similar workloads? Will it set a precedent for this ministry and others?

But that brings up a few thoughts about answering these type of leadership issues:

1. I always try to go with principles first. What’s the larger principle guiding the individual decisions? Sometimes it helps to think in those terms. 

2. I try to think big picture. Almost every decision impacts more than one person or one situation.  

3. I am careful not to lock myself into one answer on nonbiblical issues. One problem I have with a strict policy is that it often keeps the church from individualizing their response based on the unique set of circumstances at the time. In the case above, whether positions should be paid or volunteer, there are always parameters to be considered beyond that which a rule can be clearly written. 

Those are a few thoughts—long answer to a shorter question.

But aren’t most leadership issues like that? Many times we find it easier to write hard, fast rules than to do the harder work of thinking bigger. Without the rules, it’s messier, but that’s why we need good leadership—to navigate through the messy to get to the best.

What do you think? 

Ron Edmondson is a church planter and pastor with a heart for strategy, leadership and marketing, especially geared toward developing churches and growing and improving the kingdom of God.

For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Administration Thu, 01 May 2014 16:00:00 -0400