Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why Staff-led Churches?

I had lunch with a former pastor last week. His marriage came apart, and he’s taking some time off. I tried to be Mr. Rogers to him; I did my best to listen, affirm, and encourage. We talked about his journey, his gifts and passion, and where God might be leading once this season is behind him. And we talked about the new churches we are starting. Some of our paradigms were new to him.

Do your churches operate with a church board? I explained that our churches are staff-led with very big ears. 

What does that mean? The staff makes the key decisions that set the direction of the church. They are fully aware, however, that they make the best decisions when they keep their ears wide open. So they listen. They welcome dissent. They encourage people to let them know when they like something and when they don’t. And when someone shares their opinion, criticism, or idea, the staff treats the person and the feedback with respect. Once in a while, the staff invites the members together for a business meeting. Not so the members can decide something, but so the staff can cast vision, share information, and listen.

Is it a good idea to put so much power in the hands of a few? Actually, a staff-led church is wonderful IF your lead pastor and primary staff members are competent, healthy, and spiritual. If they aren’t, a staff-led church is a disaster; it’s a terrible model. Everything rises and falls on whether your lead pastor and staff (a) know what to do and how to get it done, (b) are emotionally healthy, and (c) they walk closely with God. 

How does it work? Don’t the members want to have a voice in what happens? Here is what you will find: Healthy people - people who are in your church for the right reason - don’t care who makes the decisions or how. They want the church to be effective. They want to experience the moving of God. If people are coming to Christ, if the church is making a difference in people’s lives, they like it. To flip the coin over, if the church isn’t going anywhere, or if people aren’t healthy, those same people use their God-given energy in negative ways. And they complain about the way decisions are made.

I shared with my pastor friend that it all boils down to this: If your church is staff-led, it had better be well-led. (Hang that one on a hook inside your mind.) If you’re the lead pastor or one of the staff, that’s up to you. Accept the mantle. Become the best leader you can. As Paul, the apostle, would say, “If your gift is leadership, lead with all diligence” (Romans 12:8). 

Take a moment and answer these questions. And feel free to send me your own. 
  1. In the staff-led model, what is the role of the lead pastor?
  2. If someone on staff appears to be lacking in one of the three areas, what is the proper way to deal with it?
  3. Why is the staff-led model the most effective? Can you think of any downsides?