Deacons deal with more than the "power people" in the church. Unfortunately, they must also sometimes face ministerial incompetence.
Leonard Sweet observed several years ago that most ministers were trained in seminary to minister in a church and world that no longer exist. How true: Learning curves and stress levels for clergy are at an all-time high. Many clergy are leaving their calling out of frustration and an inability to retool or work with the established church (that doesn't want to change to better minister in an emerging culture).
Counsel offered deacons and spiritual leaders in Acts, Titus and Timothy calls us to be peacemakers, not troublemakers; discerning rather than just reactive; and redemptive while making decisions for the good of the body of Christ.
All this becomes difficult when there is ministerial incompetence resulting from: inadequate skill sets to move the church forward; burnout; or reacting out of emotional baggage rather than clear leadership of the Spirit.
What are some practical handles for deacons and churches in the face of incompetence? These ideas have been effective in many local congregations.
· Take your time in searching for new ministers. Do your homework to help insure a good match.
· Call a minister to help you accomplish your church's vision. Don't expect the minister to bring the vision and "save the church."
· Require your ministers to be involved in continuing education—at the church's expense—in order to help them retool and stay current.
· When tension occurs in the relationship, talk to the minister before you talk to others. Be up front and clear about the issues.
· Don't say to the minister, "Many people are angry about …." Be specific. If you can't call names and be clear about the issues, reconsider the conversation.
· When you approach the clergy, approach as a friend, advocate, prayer partner and helper in finding answers and maybe new skills for ministering in your situation.
· Require clergy to take all of their vacation time and don't expect them to return for funerals, etc. Clergy need a full vacation without fears of being called back.
· Spread the leadership and pastoral care base. Expecting clergy to provide all the leadership needs—weddings, budgets, personnel, building management, funerals, fund raising, hospital visits—is unrealistic. Create teams of people called and gifted for these tasks and free your minister up to be "an equipper of the saints." That's the priesthood of all believers at its best.
· Invite outside negotiators and consultants to help you find solutions to your crises. Oftentimes, when things become reactionary and emotional, only a third party can help get to the heart of the issue.
· Understand that dissension and conflict between clergy and laity are frequently around issues having little or no kingdom value. The issues are often '"pastoral care oriented," but the pastor is called and committed to leading the church on mission. Pastoral care is important, but it's not the biblical mission of the church. Spiritual leaders are called to keep the church focused on fulfilling the biblical mission, not keeping all the church members happy.
Eddie Hammett is leadership/discipleship consultant for Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and adjunct professor at Gardner Webb Divinity School.
Buy Hammett's books now from Amazon.com!
Making the Church Work: Converting the Church for the 21st Century
The Gathered and Scattered Church
Reframing Spiritual Formation: Discipleship in an Unchurched Culture