I actually talked with more than one person this week from various places about this before I got this note last night. This young pastor is trying to do his best but is caught in that season when he is seeing how things hurt even in a healthy church setting.
If you are a lead pastor, I sure hope this helps you see how you might be perceived. You may know less about how those who serve you think than you realize.
In your experience, do lead/senior pastors tend to avoid conflict at all costs…even if it means throwing their worship pastor or anyone else under the bus?
My lead pastor doesn’t go to bat for me or the associate pastor…he’ll even tell me one thing, I will do it well, and then if there is kickback he won’t stand with us.
…Is this a common problem in churches, ya think?
-Tired At 28
Dear Tired at 28,
Unfortunately, what you are describing is common. When the heat is on, some of the best qualities of a senior pastor or leader create other problems. Leadership is conflict. It’s either deferring conflict, reducing conflict or creating conflict. So, if the tactic is a bad leadership move such as deflecting conflict to his team, we have a problem. This sounds like your case.
The reality is that a lead pastor is worried about the ship and it sinking. This is what keeps him up at night. I wished that more lead pastors stayed up at night and thought of how to support and motivate their team and staff. We cannot change that for you today, but there are some truths in dealing with a weak leader or one who is not as supportive as one would desire. I hope this helps you think through steps to take.
- If there is heat on the lead pastor, he may view it as your job to relieve the political heat, or take the bullet for him. He may thank you for it, or not. Most likely not.
- Your bright-eyed idealism does not help a situation where people are attempting to inflict damage on your ministry. Sympathize with the leader about the consequences of your actions and those that might cause heat.
- It does not matter how personally close you may feel to the leader who is weaker, when the heat is on him you have to shield him. When the heat is on you, you are a hot potato. You will not be shielded. Ouch.
- Having expectations in writing and roles clarified are a must. This way there is an objective way to remind your leader of your “real” job and what is needed from him (his real job) to succeed.
- I think it is painful to do, but being honest with your leader about how his actions are not supporting you and therefore put him and his team at risk are in order. So, create your own conflict.
- You cannot be required to apologize for who you are: a musician, young, a woman in ministry, inexperienced, a dreamer, a driver, etc. You should apologize for behavior that does not match expectations, however.
I sure hope these help. Any feedback from my readers?