Is Your Leadership Suffering from Avoidance?

Everyone one of us has served under a leader that seemed reluctant to deal with a problem that is stifling the church.  It seems obvious to everyone.  It is the elephant in the room.  The staff or lay leadership has raised the questions, but the pastor is reluctant to address it.

The truth is the pastor knows about the problem.  In fact, the pastor has thought about it often and it has kept him up at night.  He has run various scenarios of solutions in his mind over and over again.  He may even have discussed them with his spouse.  Even his spouse is wondering why he doesn’t take action.

Leadership is filled with difficult decisions and solving problems.  The worship leader who is cannot keep a tune is killing the worship for the congregation, but they filled in for over a year when there was no one to lead.  How can you simply replace them?  The youth group has outgrown the abilities of the youth pastor and therefore the group constantly hits a ceiling and declines.  You have received so many complaints about the problem, but it just seems impossible to fire him.  An elder constantly undermines your leadership in subtle ways needs to be removed as he doesn’t listen to others and is stubborn, but he is related to the top three giving families in the church.  The janitor that fails to stock the restrooms almost weekly with toilet paper but if you let them go, they probably will not find another job easily and their family will suffer.  The issues could go on and on.

Why do we fail to act when we know about the problem and what it is doing to the church?  That is complex question which has different answers for different people.  However, at the root, is fear.  It is important to identify your fear “triggers”.  The soul has three passions:  acceptance, significance, and security (Three Passions of the Soul, Dr. Bruce Terpstra), Fear can be triggered because of fear of losing relationship (acceptance).  We all want to be liked, and we don’t like to do things that cause others to be rejected.  Fear is also triggered by the desire for success (significance).  We fear that the solution will be worse than the existing problem and we don’t want to experience that painful process.  Fear can also be triggered by our need to be safe (security).  What if people come against me?  What if people get mad and leave and stop giving?  Leadership is a dangerous calling… at times.

The truth is that all three passions of the soul are in us so we can experience all these things at once.  We can easily become paralyzed.  However this paralysis may be killing your ministry.  You can cover your failure with words like, “We need to have grace”, or “it is not time yet, let me deal with it my way”.  When you delay doing what you know must be done, the problem almost always gets worse, not better.  The time to deal with an issue that is hurting the body is when the problem appears, and not let it become a serious issue.

I would suggest the following:  1) Identify the problem and give it both a name and how it is impacting the body, 2) Ask yourself why you are reluctant to deal with the problem and 3) Resolve to address the problem head on with a well thought out plan.

Leadership requires self-awareness about why we make decisions as a leader.  The better you understand your soul, the more likely you will live in obedience to Christ in your leadership.

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.