Beliefnet
Elevating Excellence

Lots of ministers spend a huge amount of time and effort telling their congregations about how to be empowered in their lives financially, spiritually, and otherwise. However, too many churches fail to adequately empower their own teams. It is “Management 101” that people who are not empowered are not effective. People need to feel like they are empowered to act (within certain boundaries) if they are to be at their best. Every job, no matter how low on the totem pole, needs to involve some level of discretion—I may be sweeping the floors, but I should be the one deciding how to best sweep the floors as long as I can get it done with excellence.

As you move up the ladder to senior leadership, the level of discretion should increase with the level of the employee and his or her track record.

The problem that all too many leaders face is that they do not know how to let go. They want to make every decision and solve every problem. Oftentimes this need to control has roots in the fact that as he or she was starting out, the pastor by necessity had to do everything because there was no one else. The pastor became accustomed to doing it all. Then as the organization grew and staff was added, the pastor’s instincts took over and he or she didn’t use the staff he or she had.

When the leader micromanages and makes all of the decisions, the staff has no say and no power.  As a result, two things happen. First, the good people will leave. If I can’t use my brain, I will not be fulfilled as a person and I will go somewhere where I get that fulfillment. The next thing that will happen is nothing. The remaining staff will not act. Why? Because there is no incentive for them to do so.

Time and time again, I have gone in to advise churches only to find that everything pointed back to the pastor. No one had any authority, and as a result, no one really did anything. Everyone simply waited for the pastor to make a decision, and a huge bureaucratic bottleneck was created. No one felt empowered to make a decision without having the boss on board.

I recognize that there needs to be a balance here. Clearly, as the leader you need and want to be informed, updated, and in the loop. However, there is a difference between being informed and making every decision. Your executives should be telling you what they are doing and why (and you have the prerogative to reverse them if you disagree), but they should be doing, not waiting for you. If your top executives will not act, why have them? If your staff just brings you problems to solve, why have them?

As part of this process, you will need to develop with your most senior team members clear delineations of power. Obviously, all really big decisions need to be decided on the leader’s desk. The critical word here is big.  Your staff needs to keep everything other than significant decisions off your desk. As the leader, it is your job to give direction and then send your team off to implement. Then those items that come to your desk should be only the most important and complex organization impacting.

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