Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

The Cover Up: Sabotage (Part 7)

Dr. Jim Osterhaus

Dr. Jim Osterhaus

As we have seen, each one of us has a defining set of values that guides our decision-making. Most of our values remain at the unconscious level. We don’t spend conscious time deciding if the things we see and hear are valuable to us. And once we begin to cross wires and live inconsistently (cognitive dissonance), our minds simply rationalize the inconsistencies and move on.

Those of us who are well-defined as people are able much more readily to identify and navigate the competing values that internally arise. As a result, rather than resorting to rationalizations to remedy the attendant anxiety, these well-defined people bring the value discrepancies into the light of day, and make conscious choices as to which of the competing values best aligns with who they are as persons.

Let’s do some scenarios (we saw one in the last addition with the elder’s intern idea).

Scenario #1. Your parents live in the same community. They insist you come over for Christmas dinner. Your spouse is tired of spending all holidays with your parents. It’s time to begin your own traditions with your two small children. Now what do you do? Your mother has even threatened disinheritance if you don’t come. That throws in an economic value. You remember somewhere in your old sermons about primary loyalties belonging to your spouse. Loyalty to spouse (“leaving mother and father”) versus keeping peace within the family (and remaining in the running for an inheritance).

Scenario #2. You are choosing people for a special advisor group from among church  members. One woman, who has worked tirelessly in a number of initiatives as a volunteer in the church for years, seems like an excellent choice for the group. And yet she is overweight. You know that all people are equally of value, and yet if she weighed 50 lbs less, she would be more appealing to you for this group.

Scenario #3. You are the senior pastor. You are in the process of hiring a new worship director. You have gotten input from your board, several key leaders,   traditional choir, and from the contemporary worship team. The preponderance of  opinion is that you hire someone, given the make-up of the church and the direction it is headed, with a traditional bent who also has some experience with contemporary worship. You very much want to build a church that is more innovative and appealing to the students who attend the local university. You decide to hire a very creative and somewhat ‘edgy’ worship leader.

Look first at the various competing values that ministry presents. Remember, these values and competing values will be held by various members of the congregation. That’s what makes board meetings and church-wide business meetings interesting. One elder will argue from one value, another will take up the argument from the competing value side. This is all well and good if the disagreement stays blue zone (focused on the mission, and doesn’t become personal and red zone).

Now look at your own competing values, and how these influence your own decisions, and how these in fact interact with the competing values resident within the congregation. When do you get energized as these board meetings and congregational meetings become heated? This will be an indication as to when your own competing values are being activated.

So let’s see if we can make this more practical. Let’s see if we can understand how we ourselves sabotage ourselves as we try to move forward, and do kingdom work.

What I am committed to. The Five Key Indicators.
Let’s look at some of your personal values, and how these values become compromised by other competing values that you hold.  Let’s start with the five key indicators:
1.    Community. How church members relate to each other.  Unhealthy churches are a collection of individuals, while healthy churches relate as a community. Consumer vs. Community.

2.    Code. The church’s genetic “code”. Unhealthy churches lack a clear identity, while healthy churches have a clear sense of their DNA and take steps to align their ministries and culture with their code. Incongruence vs. Code.

3.    Leadership. The church’s leadership.  Unhealthy churches tend to be overly autocratic or bureaucratic, while healthy churches view leadership as a shared function and as a ministry. Autocracy vs. Shared Leadership.

4.    Outreach. How the church relates to the local community.  Unhealthy churches disengage from the world around them, while healthy churches are focused on their mission and have an outward orientation that starts with their own locale. Cloister vs. Missional.

5.    Change. How church members think about the future.  Unhealthy churches resist change and fear or deny the future, while healthy churches embrace change, even when it is painful. Inertia vs. Reinvention.

Choose one of these that you are truly committed to in your ministry.

In My Ministry, I’m Committed to (choose one of the five key indicators that is currently most prominent in your ministry goals)…

Sharing Leadership with not only my staff, but with the whole congregation (priesthood of believers).

Organizational Models.
As we have said, churches represent the most complicated organization model, incorporating elements of a business, a family, and a faith community. Select what you have tended to emphasize as the primary ministry model within your congregation.

This Key Indicator, as I understand its development in my ministry, is most closely associated with the following church organizational model (choose business, family, or faith community…
A business.

Now, what are you doing or not doing that is thwarting your own goal of flattening the hierarchy, sharing leadership, empowering others, and allowing staff and congregants to step up and assume leadership?

What am doing/not doing that thwarts my aim of sharing leadership:

When others assume leadership, I jump in and micromanage and, in effect, take back the leadership I ceded to others.

This would be a good time to bring in your Red Zone issue: Acceptance, Competence, Control, Survival, and mix it into the equation. Because it is probably this issue that is fueling the value that is driving your thwarting behaviors.

My Red Zone Issue is competence. Because I must always be competent in what I do, as a cede leadership to others, I also cede quality control. This I cannot do. Those to whom I have ceded control might possibly make a muddle of things. Therefore with one hand I must give them control, and with the other take control back, lest they mess things up and make me look incompetent.

Now you can begin to see how competing values are operating in your own ministry. As you set goals, and move in particular directions, other parts of yourself, with a whole different set of values, may activate, and in fact thwart the plans that you have laid.


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