Posts Tagged ‘pastors and church boards; protecting pastors; church boards protecting their pastor’

The relationship between a pastor and a church’s governing board can make or break a ministry.

Let me share a time when I witnessed this truth firsthand.

During my last youth pastorate, several churchgoers were openly criticizing the pastor.  Someone approached me one Sunday in the church parking lot and claimed that 10% of the congregation would leave if the pastor didn’t do what his group demanded.

Since nobody told the grumblers how to handle their concerns, it became open season on the pastor.

So I invited myself to the next board meeting.  I told the members that their pastor was under attack and that they needed to protect him.

The pastor wasn’t convinced this was a good idea.  He had undergone a major conflict in his previous ministry and wasn’t eager for another one.

The board finally voted 5-2 to do something about the attacks – with the pastor casting one of the dissenting votes – but then proceeded to do nothing.

Unfortunately, my experience inside that board meeting is all too typical nowadays.

Being a pastor is all-consuming.  You’re never off-duty mentally, morally, or emotionally.  You don’t even have an “off” switch.

You’re always thinking about your next sermon … staff meeting … hospital visit … counseling appointment … and your critics.

Especially your critics.

Let’s say a pastor starts his week with an energy score of 100.

Subtract 20 points for sermons … 10 points for staff meetings … 5 points for every hospital visit and counseling appointment … and anywhere from 10-40 points for critics.

After a while, the critics … just … wear … you … down.

I believe that if a critic is upset with a pastor personally, he or she needs to speak with the pastor directly … or let things go.

And the church board needs to enforce this principle which comes from Matthew 18:15-17.

If a critic is upset with the pastor’s policies, he or she can speak to any policymaker – including board members.

Having only two ears, the pastor may not hear what his critics are saying for weeks … if not months.

But board members – having 8 or 12 or 18 ears – do know what critics are saying … and need to protect their pastor from circulating flak so he can do his job.

Because every week the pastor has to deal with critics, he loses 10-40% of his effectiveness … and unchecked criticism is the source of much pastoral burnout.

Most of the board chairmen I worked with over the years understood the importance of protecting their pastor from critics … especially Russ and Ray.

Russ and Ray were not “yes men.”  If they disagreed with something I said or did, they’d tell me to my face … with honesty … in love.

They didn’t gauge the views of the rest of the board first.  They didn’t talk about me behind my back.  They manned up and spoke to me directly.

And I loved and respected them for doing that.

But because they were honest with me to my face, they always defended me behind my back.

One time, a regular churchgoer made a beeline for Ray after an informational meeting.  Ray listened … explained the board’s position … and calmed the man down.

When the time was right, Ray told me who the man was … what he said … and how Ray handled things.

When all the board members act like Russ and Ray, the pastor feels free to do his ministry without suffering a 10-40% drop in effectiveness every week.

But when the chairman and other board members don’t share their concerns with the pastor personally … don’t protect their pastor from critics … and pool their grievances outside of meetings … they are sowing seeds for (a) their pastor’s departure; (b) staff resignations; (c) major conflict; (d) heartache among churchgoers; and even (e) their own resignations and departures.

When pastors and board members form an unshakeable alliance, the congregation moves forward.

When board members form alliances among themselves, or with congregational factions … against their pastor … the congregation stalls and then regresses.

The night Jesus was arrested, Peter – who had pledged to protect his Master – failed to protect Him from critics.

This caused Jesus to look directly at Peter with sadness … and caused Peter to weep bitterly.

When Jesus-appointed leaders in our churches fail to protect their shepherds, Jesus looks upon them with sadness, too.

How do you respond to what I’ve written?

Next time, I’ll talk about what church boards need from their pastor.

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