The board meetings have begun to sour. Increasingly the pastor and his board have heated conversations about the church’s direction. The conflict has bled into every meeting for months. Emotions are running high. Conflict reaches a flash point. There is no written plan on how to deal with it.
What happens? The board either sends the pastor packing or he quits out of frustration.
A rarity? No. Over 1500 pastors are forced from the ministry each month and many more pastors simply quit because they’re broken. Many are pondering leaving right now.
When emotions run rampant among pastors and boards, thoughtfulness seldom prevails. Our emotional brain hijacks our thinking brain.
So what is the solution to this problem? A written, clear, agreed-upon conflict resolution process. Here are 5 reasons your church needs one.
- Simply quoting Matthew 18:15-17 on dealing with conflict often doesn’t cut it. Although it’s the basis for conflict resolution, it’s seldom practiced without specific written guidelines.
- When we’re emotional, we don’t think clearly. When that happens we need something objective that is not open to interpretation, something that specifically explains the process whereby board-staff or staff-staff conflict can be resolved.
- Such a policy can often result in a more redemptive resolution to conflict than knee-jerk reactions, instead of firing or quitting.
- We are called to model to the world love for each other (John 13.34-35). How we respond to conflict often conveys just the opposite.
- When we solve conflict in a God honoring way we embody unity, what the Scriptures often command us to seek. Eph. 4.3 (NIV) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
I highly recommend the organization called Peacemakers to help you craft such a policy. Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, founded and leads this organization. Every pastor should read his book.
They also offer training and have produced some excellent materials you can use to teach your church and leaders. Check out this link for their resources.
Does your church have a conflict resolution policy? I’d love to see it if you do.
I just learned 5 reasons why churches should have a conflict resolution policy.http://ow.ly/kVX5W (click to tweet this).
Discouragement comes with the territory for ministry leaders. Unmet goals, putting out fires, staff issues, displeasing people, and general tiredness all contribute to discouragement. When it weighs us down, how can we dig out?
The life of the prophet Elijah gives us hope.
I Kings 18-19 tells the story of his amazing confrontation with the prophets of Baal. The people of Israel had gathered on Mount Carmel along with 450 prophets of Asherah. They set up a sacrifice and the 450 pagan prophets summoned their gods to provide rain. Nothing happened. Then Elijah summoned the one, true God who showed His power by not only consuming the sacrifice but also ending the drought.
You’d think that after God showed up in such a powerful way, twice, that Elijah would be on a spiritual and emotional high. Not so. After these great victories, he ran for his life, thinking he was the only true prophet left. He literally wanted to die. But God did not leave him alone. I Kings 19 explains how he cared for him.
Three lessons stand out about how we can defeat leadership discouragement.
- First, prepare for an emotional dip after spiritual success. I’ve found that discouragement often follows a spiritual high. Among other reasons, it’s the body’s response to stress. Mondays are often the most discouraging days for pastors after an intense Sunday. Prepare for this inevitability.
- Second, physically rejuvenate. After Elijah wanted to die, God provided food for him through an angel and had him take two long naps. After a spiritual high, take care of your body to give it time to re-energize. Extra sleep, healthy food, exercise, and doing something fun can help you recover.
- Third, still your soul to hear God’s gentle voice. After Elijah fled, God spoke to him in a “whisper.” Often Satan will attack us most after spiritual victories with condemning and tempting thoughts. When he does, turn your heart to the Lord and listen to His quiet, yet encouraging voice.
What has helped you defeat discouragement?
Patrick Lencioni brought the concept of silos into the leadership conversation with this great book, Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars.Silos occur in organizations and churches when leaders act like their ministry or team is the only one that matters. A silo attitude results in that leader or team only supporting, giving, or attending functions that pertain to them. It can be kill a ministry and result in these problems.
- Unhealthy competition
- Hurt feelings
- Lack of trust
- Fighting over limited resources
- Foot dragging
So how can a leader minimize ministry silos? Below I suggest a key foundation and then 5 pillars to build on that foundation to rid your ministry of silos.
If you want to change your culture to minimize and remove silos, build from the bottom up. Build a solid foundation on the Biblical concept of unity. Teach and train your leaders often about unity remembering that unity does not mean uniformity. God gives each of us unique gifts and abilities which creates a healthy church. Keep these and other Scriptures in front of your leaders.
- Psa. 133.1 (NIV) How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
- Rom. 15.5 (NIV) May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,
- Eph. 4.3 (NIV) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
- 1Cor. 1.10 (NLT) I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
Next, place these five pillars on that unity foundation.
- Make sure you have a clear, shared vision. Keep your church’s mission/vision/values before your leaders. If you’re fuzzy on mission/vision/values, I recommend Will Mancini’s book, Church Unique.
- Build trust between all your leaders. When leaders trust each other it increases the trust neurotransmitter, oxytocin, which builds camaraderie. The more people trust each other, studies show that they will co-operate more. (De Dreu, 2012).
- Encourage your leaders to talk to each other. Schedule consistent leadership meetings so that leaders can hear each other’s stories and needs. Start a leadership e-letter and send it to every leader. The more in common leaders share with other leaders, the more productive and motivated they’ll be.
- Remind leaders that it’s not all about them. Remind them that they are part of a larger purpose and that great teams look out for each other. Foster this attitude among your leaders. “How can I help my fellow leaders, even though it’s not my ministry?”
- Teach leaders to step inside each other’s shoes. When we see life from another’s perspective, we are more giving and more likely to help. It’s a concept mentalizing (Waytz et al., 2012).
Are silos an issue in your ministry? How do you deal with them?
De Dreu, C.K.W. (2012) Oxytocin modulates cooperation within and competition between groups: An integrative review and research agenda. Hormones and Behavior, 61 (3), pp.419-428.
Waytz, A., Zaki, J. & Mitchell, J.P. (2012) Response of Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex Predicts Altruistic Behavior. Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (22), pp.7646-7650.
After 32 years working in a church, I stepped down last year after a fulfilling 7/2; year run as a senior pastor in Aurora, IL. This past year I’ve accomplished several things.
- Completed a book for Inter-Varsity Press called People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivate Leadership. It releases in February of 2014.
- Almost completed another book on the subject of neuroleadership for Christian leaders (intersects brain-based insights with the Bible).
- Created the foundation for my consulting/coaching ministry for pastors.
- Formed an animation company called BullsEye Animations.
- Traveled to Canada, Haiti, and Mexico to train pastor-leaders.
- Preached in several churches.
- Almost completed an Executive Masters in the Science of Neuroleadership.
I’ve been busy accomplishing many things, but I’m at a transition point in my life. I want to go back into church ministry as a lead pastor. To help me in this transition, I’ve hired a wonderful Christian coach, Kim Avery, to guide me through the process. I’ve scheduled several phone coaching sessions with her. Here are the five reasons I’m getting a coach this year.
- Perspective. Although I’m an intelligent guy, sometimes I lose perspective. Someone totally objective can often see things I can’t and I need that in my life right now.
- Questions. I learn well when others ask me good questions. It puts the thinking into my court. Good coaches know how to ask good questions.
- Push-back. Sometimes my thinking can get so one-tracked that I don’t consider other possibilities. A coach can help me think “outside-the-box” by pushing back on my assumptions.
- Blind spots. This relates to #1 and #3 above. We all have blind spots. As I enter into this transition, I don’t want to make decisions that might be prompted by blind spots. A coach can help reveal blind spots that can skew decision-making.
- Affirmation. As I move into my next phase of life, whatever that looks like, I appreciate affirmation from those I respect. A respected coach can affirm good decision-making and through affirmation can prompt me take that final step necessary to make the right decisions.
If you have been coached, what benefits have you seen from your coaching experience?
I recently attended a two-day retreat with Keith Meyer sponsored by the Cornerstone Pastor’s Network.Keith is a pastor and author of several books on soul care including one honored in 2010 as one of the five best books for the leader’s inner life, Whole Like Transformation: Becoming the Change Your Church Needs.
Keith challenged us with several great practices to take care of our soul. Here are the top five that grabbed my attention the most.
- Our longing for Him must supersede our love for His ministry. So often our passion for Christ gets buried in our passion for our church or ministry. When that happens we stifle that vital connection to the Vine, our true source of joy and strength.
- We must slow down enough to go God’s speed. And what is God’s speed? The speed of love and relationships. This one really struck me. Too often in my drive to accomplish my daily goals, I move so fast that I breeze by the relational connections that Jesus most wants me make.
- When we pay attention to God throughout the day, we’re most open to divinely arranged interruptions. One way we can become more sensitive to Him is to ‘pray our day’ and ‘pray our events.’ That is, use your calendar items and task list as cues to pray for your meeting, lunch appointment, study time, or whatever you have planned for the day. When we do this everything becomes a cue to go to Him.
- Memorize long transformative passages like Colossians 3, John 15, and Romans 12. Sometimes we memorize single Scripture verses and use them simply as ‘pills’ to treat our daily problems. Longer passages, however, can best transform our thinking.
- Grace is not opposed to effort but to earning. This one originally came form Dallas Willard, USC philosophy professor and writer of some of the best books on spiritual formation. One of my favorites he wrote is Renovation of the Heart,a must-read for every pastor.
- The acronym VIM captures the non-negotiables for spiritual transformation. ‘V’ stands for vision. ‘I’ stands for intention. ‘M’ stands for means. Again, Dallas Willard was the first to suggest this process. Here’s a great article that unpacks VIM.
What practices have most helped you care for your soul?