All kinds of churches have "power people"—members who, by many accounts, prevent the church from moving forward.
The power people are often deacons and their families. They might be long-time church members, even charter members. But they inhibit church growth for fear of losing control or power.
What do you do when the power people prevent the church from moving forward?
Facing power people takes courage and a gentle, but firm, spirit. In many instances, the power people sign the church's checks or write big checks to the church. If ministers oppose the preferences of the power people, then life may become difficult.
When faced with these stressful situations, some ministers say, "I didn't sign up for being treated like this. I'll find another career and another way to fulfill my calling. These people don't want to fulfill the Great Commission. They want to play church by their own rules."
It takes courage to meet the heartache and tension.
Unfortunately, most ministers are not trained to manage change or conflict. So when confronted with these situations, many ministers take it as a personal attack (which it often is), and they either give in or get out.
The skills needed by clergy and lay leaders to face power people include:
- Prayer – Pray specifically for people and situations.
- Faith – It sustains you through storms and helps you please God, not people.
- Confrontation – Caring enough to confront is often what's needed. Following biblical instruction for confrontation can remove the "barrier" to moving forward.
- Navigating the White Water – Moving through change is tough and has many parallels to white water rafting. Think of the lessons
- Support/Encouragement – Confrontations are difficult. Those who face power people need generous support and encouragement.
- Understanding – In most cases, power people are filled with fear: fear of losing status, power, control, presence. They may simply fear losing the familiar in a world already riddled with change. We must educate, not ignore, them. Remember: Changing values before changing structures is critical to more effective ministry in a rapidly changing world (the book Making the Church Work is designed to help with this).
It's not that uncommon for a few church members to protect their status or comfort and, in so doing, thwart the mission of God through his church. Deacons are to be servant leaders, not power-hungry, insecure leaders who prefer the status quo.
Deacons must be led by the Spirit of God to move the church forward in accomplishing the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
What about you? How are you perceived? Where do you spend your time and energy as a deacon?
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