Church Politics Part 2: Navigating land mines while leading your church

This is Part 2 in a blog series “Church Politics: Navigating land mines while leading your church.”

In the introductory in Part 1 we listed the titles of some political behaviors. Today, we take the first three of them and offer a possible principle to contrast. The conversation I hope is not to bash the idea of Church, but to ask the question as to the possible better ways of working through the human reality of politics in human institutions. Surely we have options beyond Machiavellian tactics to lead people!

Stall Pulling The Trigger – the NON-decision decision.

Making no decisions is the surest way to not lose. In an organization that is politically driven never making a decision means there are less points that work as strikes against you. Imagine, you are in your post because you really have not accomplished anything because to do so means you have to offend people, challenge the process, or push the boundaries. If you actually create something, that can and will be used against you in the court of church politics.

Let your yes be yes and and your no be a true no. Yes, we should perhaps wait and pray, but delaying a decision must be owned as a decision. Leaders make decisions.

Don’t Make Anyone Look Bad – the no-backbone keep all happy thing.

In one church setting, I was asked by my department head to make a newsletter. At that time desktop publishing was new and I happened to have the latest software to layout a decent piece. In fact, it was too good. Because our department piece ended up looking better than the main church newsletter we were told to shut it down. Why? If we were to publish the better newsletter, it would expose the inferior one. Excellence will be acceptable only as long as it will not offend.

Again, leaders have to choose and sometimes that choice will offend. If you lead, you must expect that there will always be people who think you are doing things the wrong way.

Compare and Contrast – the deflect critics by pointing out you are not AS bad as others.

If a pastor chooses a terrible speaker to fill his pulpit he is choosing to look good not based on his improvement but by comparison to the unflattering. A lot of marketing is based on stating you are the better choice. In politics the goal is to make sure this is the case, even if it means putting people in the wrong place or intentionally surrounding yourself with people who cannot compete with you as the leader. How does this serve the church? It doesn’t. If leadership is about passing on to others, then this will put a wrench in the machine of creating the next generation of leaders.

A leaders job is to serve the institution, not keep the seat of power. In fact, if it mean stepping aside to allow someone better to take over then by all means do it. This is our goal with our kids. Let’s see them succeed more than we ever could have. Right?

After looking at these three political behaviors, have you seen any of them at play in your church. How did you respond?

Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

1 comment

  1. HA! Dude I love this. Of course, I’ve been around and I’ve seen all three at work.

    "How does this serve the church? It doesn’t."

    Fear is a big part of the equation. Perfect love casts out fear. I think it can be hard to be courageous in church world. The more love, the less fear, the healthier church.

    How do I handle it? Sometimes I chose to lose. To me that’s the message of the cross.

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