“I really believe this country has gotten very used to multi-person talent competitions that play out on a weekly basis on television.  It’s not Idol, but it’s not unlike Idol.”veteran political analyst Tom Rath referring to the Republican debates.  USA Today December 27th  

There are some posts that are tough to write because they communicate a hard truth that we all know intuitively.  This is one of those posts.

American Idol and shows like it – Survivor, Dancing With The Stars, The Apprentice, The Voice, The Greatest Loser, etc – have changed the way we think as a society.  And this change in thinking has affected local churches.

Americans have always liked having a choice.  We have preferences and we want options.  All church leaders remember the worship wars of the 1990s and I think another war has been going on the last decade.  It just hasn’t been declared it.  It is the team teaching war and it has split hundreds, maybe thousands of churches.

It is natural for Americans to look at multiple options and choose which one they prefer, even at church.  The problem comes when they feel robbed or under-served when their preferred option is not the one they get and subsequently sow discord. 

There are two realities at play:

  1. Team teaching is healthy when done right and is not going away.
  2. The competitive nature of Americans in multi-person and multi-choice environments is not going away either.

So how do we handle this?  Here are a few suggestions:

Senior Pastor

  • Be very clear about your vision and guard it fiercely!  In the words of Shawn Lovejoy, be mean about your vision.
  • Continue to compliment and invest in your staff and leaders as they will determine your level of success.
  • Be secure and not jealous if someone is more charismatic than you.
  • It’s all about God!  If someone is currently perceived as being “more successful” than you, celebrate what God is doing.  This is happening on your leadership watch.
  • Be willing to learn new things and change.  Everything in ministry has a life cycle.  A key leadership skill is knowing when a horse is dead and that it is OK to dismount.  Whipping it harder will not bring it back to life.
  • Pray for every member of your staff to be wildly successful, especially the charismatic associate pastor.

Charismatic Associate Pastor

  • Always point to God and give Him credit for everything.
  • Always promote the Senior Pastor.  Serve and passionately defend him.
  • Be a team player.  Your job, and for that matter the job of every sub-ministry, is to use their area of influence to make the overall church’s vision a reality.
  • Don’t be afraid to do your job with excellence but always be humble.
  •  If you feel the time has come to be a senior pastor, go to a ministry or plant that is at least two hours away.  No good shepherd divides a flock.  Two exceptions – satellite campus or unless you have the church’s full blessing. 
  • Pray for every member of your staff to be wildly successful, especially your senior pastor.

Elders and Senior Leadership

  • Publicly make team teaching part of your culture.  Continually communicate to the congregation this is how we do ministry and why this is your most effective option.
  • Continually point to the Senior Pastor as the “first among equals”.
  • Be vigilant about publicly dealing with unhealthy pastoral preferences and snuff them out quickly.
  • Do not tolerate unhealthy staff or lay leadership alliances.
  • Pray for every member of your staff to be wildly successful, especially your senior pastor and charismatic associate pastor.

We now choose American presidents like we choose American Idols.  I just don’t want us to view the office of pastor the same way.

Your thoughts?

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