10 Dangerous Church Paradigms

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I’ve been in church all my life. Along the way I’ve seen and learned a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience.

I have observed, for example, that paradigms can often shape a church’s culture. A paradigm in simple terms, is a mindset; a way of thinking. In this case, a collective mindset of the church, often programmed into the church’s culture.

If the church is unhealthy part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In that case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.

Recently, I’ve been thinking of some of the paradigms which impact a church. I’ll look at some of the negative in this post and in another post some of the positive paradigms of the church.

Here are 10 dangerous church paradigms:

This is more my church than yours – No one would ever say that, but a sense of ownership can set in the longer someone has been at a church. They have invested in the church personally and feel, often rightly so, a need to protect and care for it. The negative of this mindset, however, is when people don’t easily welcome new people. They own seats. You better not sit there, no matter how much the church needs to grow.They control programs, committees, and traditions. Obviously, the church is not your church or my church. God has not released the deed.

We’ve never done it that way before – And, if this is the “go to” paradigm, you probably never will. People with this mindset resist all change. Even the most positive or needed change. Small change is big change to these people.

The pastor needs to do it – Whatever “it” is…the pastor, or some church staff, must be involved at some level. It keeps a church very small. (And, doesn’t seem Biblical to me.)

That’s for the big churchess – Don’t sell yourself short. Some of the greatest people in ministry came from small churches. Maybe your only role, for example, is to raise up the next generation of Kingdom-minded leaders. That could be a great purpose for a church.

That’s for the small churches – I’ve seen a few big churches with attitude. Bad attitudes. This mindset can keep a church from reaching the most hurting, because their only focus is on growing. A strong, narrowly defined and driven vision is powerful. It builds churches, but a church with this paradigm never welcomes any interruptions in their plans. Jesus is our best example of this. He kept the vision before Him, but was never afraid to stop for the interruption yelling in the streets.

My comfort level for change is ______ – This paradigm says, “We will change until it impacts our individual personal desires.” Does it sound self-centered? It is.

My people would never support that… – Well, pastor, maybe if they weren’t “your people”, they’d be more willing to be “God’s people”. He has ways you can’t even imagine of leading His people to do His will.

I can’t – Not with that attitude, but one question. Where is your faith?

This is the best we can do - Are you sure? Is that your opinion or God’s? Sounds like a dangerous paradigm to me.

We have plateaued as a church – Really? You may have quit growing, but plateaued? The word means leveled out. That indicates you’re stable. In my experience, you’re either going forward…or going backwards. Standing still is usually not an option.

Those are just some of the dangerous church paradigms I’ve observed. You’ve seen far more, I’m sure.

Do you know of any other dangerous church paradigms?

4 Succession Planning Trends For Church Leaders

Passing the Baton

This is a requested guest post by my friend William Vanderbloemen. William leads the team at Vanderbloemen Search Group. Their vision statement is “We staff the church”. From what I see of William, that’s his heartbeat.

I heard William present some of this on a recent Leadership Network online conference. Knowing churches that didn’t plan well for succession and knowing very few who have, I felt it was a message that needed to be heard. This is top level coaching, so while we’ve made this resource free, you will need to register to download the remainder of this post. (But, it will be worth it!)

Here are 4 Succession Planning Trends for Church Leaders:

The longer I do executive search, the more I am convinced of this simple truth:

The most expensive hire you will ever make is hiring the wrong person.

Taken one step further, the most expensive bad hire you can ever make is a bad hire of a new Lead Pastor.

Unfortunately, there are too many stories of bad transitions, bad results from a senior pastor search, or a senior pastor succession. So what are some steps that churches are doing to ensure a good senior pastor search? What steps should churches be taking to ensure that their transition goes smoothly and mitigate the chances of problems?

As we work with churches across the country and around the world, we’re starting to see four succession planning trends arise for church leaders.

1. Secure the Outgoing Senior Pastor’s New Pastoral Identity

Many senior pastors have been serving at their church for twenty, thirty, or more years, and their identity is defined by their ministry and church responsibility. I don’t know of another job that ties identity to vocation as much as ministry does. Church is where you do life together, have your spiritual journey together, and it’s where you do work together. When that goes away, pastors are left asking, “Who am I?”

Smart churches are answering that question by finding a way to say, “Here is your identity after you leave. Let’s talk about it ahead of time. Let’s write it down.”

For some churches, that means the pastor is going to start with a vacation paid for by the board. It may be six months to a year so that the new pastor can get his or her feet on the ground and build leadership trust as the new pastor. While that sort of expense may sound extravagant, smart boards are realizing that an extended sabbatical for the outgoing senior pastor both honors their longtime leader and provides a buffer period for the new senior pastor to get established. In the end, I believe this is an expense that pays for itself.

Many denominational churches have a policy that the outgoing pastor cannot be a part of the church for a designated amount of time. Having a policy in place before a pastoral transition ensures that the outgoing pastor knows the lay of the land before he hands off his job.

I’ve seen other churches create a clearly defined new staff role for the outgoing pastor. One example that comes to mind is a church whose outgoing pastor left for a season and then returned by invitation from the new pastor in the position of Pastor of Designated Giving. That pastor was able to raise money from longtime parishioners that simply wouldn’t have been possible for a new senior pastor. It gave the outgoing senior pastor a new, defined identity and purpose. It also let parishioners know what to call the new pastor to do (and what not to do). Many churches we serve create roles for the outgoing senior pastor around their passions. I’ve seen new roles as a Pastor of Missions for a particular part of the world, Pastor of Caring Ministries, and many others. In all cases, the new role gave the outgoing senior pastor a clear identity as they enter uncharted territory in their life and ministry.

Smart churches, denominational or non-denominational are setting up a successful succession by clearly identifying the outgoing pastor’s identity as it relates to the church.

What are some areas within your church where your outgoing pastor can find identity?

Click here to download my white paper 4 Succession Planning Trends For Church Leaders where you can read all four trends and share it with your staff as you plan for a successful transition.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Church Drama

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I love the local church. I really do. I believe it is God’s design and His plan to reach the world with the Gospel…with life and hope.

But, I hate church drama.

I really do. I hate destructive drama in any setting, but especially in the church. It shouldn’t exist. It especially shouldn’t exist in the church. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and for believers for it to exist at all, but, even still, it does.

Drama. Gossip. Back-stabbing. Politics. Jockeying for power. Rumors. It’s destructive and has no part in the local church. I’ve seen lots of it. And, along the way I’ve learned a few things.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about church drama:

Not all rumors are true. Most aren’t.

People like to expand on what they know. Or think they know.

There are consequences to sin. Even though there is grace. Some confuse that.

Some people enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things bigger and “better” than they really are.

Gossip destroys.

There is usually more to the story than what you know. But it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Many people never consider the ramifications of what they are saying.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request.

Thumper’s mom was right.

The only reliable source is the direct source.

For those who have given up on church because of the drama…Please reconsider. I still believe in the local church. I think we need people who like me…hate the drama of church and just want to live out the Gospel. Don’t let the drama keep you away. Come be a part of ending it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip and 5 Suggestions When Your Life is a Drama. Or, even better, read the Book of James…New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

What have you learned about church drama?

The church that pleased everyone…

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Once upon a time there was a church that pleased everyone.

You read that right…everyone.

Of course…

They taught nothing…

They had no pastor…

They had no programs…

They never asked for money…

They challenged no one…

They sang everyone’s favorite song…every Sunday…

No one actually attended this church, but certainly no one ever complained either.

Have you ever been to that church?

(I hope you realize the sarcasm in this post, but if not and and you’re actually looking for this church. I think it’s located next to the pastor that pleased everyone, the song that pleased everyone, and the blog post that pleased everyone. :) )

10 Ways to Help Your Spouse Transition to a New Position

Lifestyle choices.

In a previous post, I wrote about the pastor’s spouse’s emotions during a time of ministry transition. You will need to read that post HERE for this post to make complete sense.That post resonated with several who are dealing with that issue. My post was to bring awareness to those emotions, but as I expected, it generated questions.

People wanted to know how…how do they help their spouse transition?

Great question. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some.

Here are 10 ways to help your spouse in a job transfer:

Celebrate what she’s doing – Many times your excitement will seem to diminish what your spouse is doing. I was talking to a young pastor recently who is experiencing great success in his new church. At the same time, his wife is watching their children. I reminded him that changing diapers on the children he loves is just as powerful. He knew that, but he needed a reminder to celebrate that fact.

Help her explorepace herself – Eventually, she needs to find her own identity. It will take time. Allow her the freedom to do so, even if that means you have to keep the children some so she can.

Don’t lock her into your world – Don’t dictate her ministry. My wife and I our partners, but she is not me. Nor am I her. Her interests and mine are different. That’s okay. It’s actually by design. She makes me better. And, in a much smaller way I’m sure, I make her better.

Listen to her – That’s always important, but even more so in times of stress or change. You’ll be busier than ever. But she will need you…more than ever. Listen. The practice will serve you and your marriage in the days ahead.

Let her grieve – She may mourn over the separation from friends. She may miss the old house. She may complain at times that the supermarket isn’t as easy to navigate. It’s a part of the acclimating process. Give it time.

Be conscious – It won’t be the same. It probably never will be. Her role will be different. Your role will be different. You will have different friends. Your schedules may be altered. Your routines will change. Be conscious that this creates stress in people and relationships.

Be present when home – When you finally get home, be fully home. Shut down. Have some times where you quit everything work related and be with your family. Give your family the attention they deserve.

Celebrate your new area – Explore the new city together. Discover the hidden gems and be a tourist for a while. (I wrote a post about how to acclimate to a new city HERE.)

Keep her informed – She will naturally feel somewhat isolated from your exciting new world. Don’t allow that emotion because you’ve excluded her from it. Make her feel a part of things as much as you can by giving her details of your day. I realize this will require even more patience, but during transition she needs to be even more a part of your day that she missed.

Be patient – It may take longer for her to acclimate to the new environment than you think it should. That’s okay. She’s not you. Don’t expect her to respond to change the same way you would.

Those are my suggestions. If you’re in a time of transition, for the good of your marriage and yourself, be intentional!

Have you transitioned recently? What recommendations do you have?

The Pastor’s Spouse: Emotions in Times of Transition

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When I’m talking to a pastor who has accepted a new position, after I hear the excitement in his voice of what he sees God doing, I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your wife dealing with the change?”

There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She’s doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on her than I thought it would be.” or, pushing even further, “I don’t understand why she’s not as excited as I am. She agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the pastor is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will come in time, but for now, she’s not as excited about the change in positions as he is.

Why is that?

I like to encourage pastors to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The new pastor has found his center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for hers.

You, the pastor, when you come home at the end of a long day, have something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging you daily. Even on days things aren’t going well…you have drama in your day you can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, her days look the same.

You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most…your partner in life and ministry.

But, if you’re not conscious of her emotions, depending on her state of mind, she may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.” Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not thinking those things and would never want her to think those things, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. That’s part of change.

She’s moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. She is often more relation-centered emotionally, so her heart transitions slower. The roles she held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or seem to have for now. That will change in time, and she probably knows that intellectually, but emotionally she feels a sense of loss that will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

Granted she is your partner, so she may be excited for you personally as a couple, but remember, she is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

That’s enough encouragement for today. I’ll share more in a future post some thoughts on helping your spouse find her center of gravity and purpose in a time of transition. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, share your stories to help others.

Pastors/Pastor’s spouses, did you have a harder time in a season of transition than your spouse did?

How to Welcome a New Pastor: 10 Suggestions

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I received the following email recently:

Hi Ron

After a one-year search our church has called a new Lead Pastor. Since you (fairly) recently took on a new pastorate and it’s fresh in your mind, I’m wondering…

* What advice would you give to the congregation for how to best help him and his family?
* What specific advice would you give to existing ministerial staff in the first couple of weeks/months before/while/just-after he arrives?

Thanks!

Interestingly, unknown to this email writer, their new pastor is coming from the church I pastor now. It’s truly is a small world after all. He’s right. Having just gone through this process, I have some thoughts.

Here are 10 suggestions for welcoming a new pastor:

Pray for him daily – You knew I’d say that. Right? But, truly, there is no greater comfort for a pastor than to know people are praying for him. I can literally feel it at times. On an especially stressful day, I sense God’s protection by the prayers of God’s people.

Love and honor his family – This includes helping them acclimate to the community. Especially if there are still children at home, they will need more family time at home, not less. The family is stretched and stressed, out of their comfort zone and pulled in so many directions. Let him have adequate time at home. Let the family time be honored as much as his church time. Read THIS POST and THIS POST for more thoughts on this post.

Tell him your name…again – And again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give him ample time to learn yours.

Don’t gossip about him – If you don’t understand something…ask. Be very careful not to propagate misunderstandings. Be a positive voice for the future. Stop gossip and rumors as soon as you hear them.

Speak encouragement – Say, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And, mean it.

Introduce him to leaders – In the church and in the community, it is helpful if the pastor knows the influencers whom he will likely encounter during his ministry. The earlier…the better.

Let him set his pace – It will take a while for him to figure out his stride. Give him your understanding during this time. He may not make every visit you want him to make. He may not place priority where you think it needs to be placed. He may not introduce change as fast as you want him to, or it may seem too fast. Let him set the pace.

Don’t offer a million suggestions – There will be time for that, but he needs time to learn the church. Most likely you’re already doing lots of things…some good and maybe some not so good. Let him learn who you are as a church before you fill his head with too many new ideas.

Don’t prejudge – He will make his own mistakes. Don’t hold a previous pastor’s mistakes against him. Don’t assume, based on his history or your expectations of him, that he will perform a certain way. He may. He may not.

Extend the honeymoon – Honestly, it usually seems too short anyway. If the pastor begins to make any changes at all, some people lose faith in him. He needs time to acclimate. He needs time to learn you and the church. Keep loving and supporting him, even when changes become harder to make and harder to accept. If God brought him there, God wants to use him there. Let God do as God intended.

Those are my suggestions. I feel the need to add to this post (even after it first published) that this is a general post, one of principle, not a specific post to your exact context. I don’t know your church or your new pastor (except in the case of the email I received…small world). This is not an endorsement of bad behavior and certainly not a suggestion that you ignore moral issues when you see them; even in the beginning days of a pastor’s ministry. But, I think we would have to agree those are the exceptions with a new pastor, not the rule. I just know, after blogging long enough, those will be the push back thoughts to this post.

Pastors, anything you would add?