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Leadership Crisis

Now the congregation was up a creek and wondering if God knew where the paddles were. They agreed to temporarily set the issue of relocation aside in order to hire a new Senior Pastor, but every candidate soon discovered what was going on. And none wanted anything to do with it. The candidates knew that whatever side they choose, he or she would lose the other half of the church. There are more details to the story, but this is enough for you to see the leadership crisis.

The following five guidelines will help you navigate your leadership crisis. The situation can be different, but the principles apply.

First understand how the church landed in crisis.

Don’t jump in to fix-it mode until you know what the real problem is.

Did the leadership fall asleep at the wheel? Was it the right idea but the wrong time? Was there too much talk and too little prayer? Did you surprise the key influencers? Has there been too much change in a short period of time? Is there a small group of disgruntled but influential people stirring up the mess? Is there a general lack of trust in the leadership? Is there a lack of confidence in the leadership? Is it a good idea but the people lack faith? These are the kinds of questions you must ask and answer. Understanding how a congregation polarized in the first place will give you great insight toward a wise solution. Don’t jump in to “fix it” mode until you know what the real problem is.

Focus on the people more than growing programs.

This is not the time for innovation, new programs, and strategic effort to build the various ministries. It is important to invest your effort, energy and prayer toward healing and community. When emotion is high and unity is low activity is not the answer. Honest conversations, forgiveness and abundant amounts of grace are needed. This is not to suggest that the real issues are to be swept under the table and people should pretend like everything is fine. To the contrary, sometimes getting to authentic community can be exhausting. The point is that investing in the growth of a program will not solve the problem. In fact, it might make it worse.

Maturity is essential. I urge you to seek after maturity in the body more than momentum toward winning one side or the other to the opposite view. If you “win” the people that fast and easy, you didn’t really win them. You simply silenced them and that is only temporary. That said, don’t try to make everyone happy. Challenge them to seek God first and set their agenda aside.

Secure an interim pastor, or outside help.

Take heart. You can navigate through tough times no matter what is happening.

Stabilize emotion by securing neutral leadership. Neutral leadership sounds like an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp. But what I simply mean is a pastor who does not have an agenda to either remain or relocate. In other words, an interim pastor is needed. The interim’s vision is healing and community. The interim is not a lightweight. He may send some contentious members packing. If the leaders attempt to immediately find the next long term pastor the people will polarize even further. They will choose according to personal agenda rather than God’s choice and the result will be a nightmare.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2019

About the Author: Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He is the author of Amplified Leadership: 5 Practices to Establish Influence, Build People, and Impact Others for a Lifetime (Charisma House, 2012), Shoulder To Shoulder Strengthening Your Church By Supporting Your Pastor (Thomas Nelson, 1997), and From a Father's Heart: Letters of Encouragement to Children and Grandchildren (Thomas Nelson, 1999). Twitter: @DanReiland

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