Friday, February 21, 2014

Leaving Church Council Leadership

I have been President or Vice President of our church council since 2009.  At my old church, I was also church council president for several years before that.

On Tuesday, I presided over my last meeting as president.  I announced my intention not to seek office, and we had elections.  I'll still serve on council, but it's time to step aside from leadership.  It's time for several reasons.

We've had some grueling years where we've wrestled with a variety of financial issues, from a huge tax bill to building issues that needed serious money.  You may be saying, "I didn't think that churches paid taxes."  But we have workers, which means that some money needs to go to the IRS.  We had several years of incorrect calculations which led to quite a mess.

Happily, those issues are either behind us or on track.  But it's left me very tired and drained.

Luckily, there are others who are not so tired and drained.  Luckily, we have several people on council with leadership skills.

Even if we didn't have strong leadership, I'd still be stepping aside. I firmly believe that leaders should step aside on a regular basis to provide space for others to develop their skills.  If there's always a leader in place who will do things, very few people will fight for their opportunity to lead.  If leaders step aside, it gives an opportunity for others.

It's good for succession planning too.  It's dangerous to rely on the same person for too long.  It's better to have a team.  One person can be hit by a bus or stricken with a crisis of any sort.  A team needs to be there to step into the gap.

Unfortunately, with all our churches being so small, at least in this part of the nation, we don't have a huge pool, which means that the same people are often doing it all, in terms of leadership--which leads to burnout.

I worry about the same issues with paid leadership and staff.  We don't have the kind of church of yesteryear, with several assistant pastors and 2 musicians and a youth director and a secretary or two.  In our church, the pastor does the bulk of the work.  I suspect the same is true of many churches.

Our pastor will be returning from sabbatical soon.  At least we can give him some sabbatical time, even if we can't afford a huge staff.

Maybe it's good that we can't afford a huge staff.  It allows space for more laypeople to do more.

Except that they often don't.  There are still strong cultural beliefs about what the pastor should do and what the laypeople should do--those beliefs are hard to overcome.

I could digress into a long exploration of pastoral authority and the professionalization of the pastor as a career choice.  But this post has gone on long enough, and it's time to touch base with the new president of our church council.  We've got transitioning to do!

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