4 Tips for Healthy Church Politics

June 23, 2016

planning_brubaker-702x336From Leading Ideas, from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary. June 22, 2016 by David Brubaker Read the entire article 1. Clear and consistent decision-making policies and practice Destructive political activity often results when individuals and groups in a congregation do not understand — or do not trust — existing decision-making mechanisms. Fuzziness in decision-making is a chronic cause of negative politics in congregations. 2. Clear lines of authority and accountability Position descriptions for professional staff are as essential for healthy congregational functioning as they are in any other organization. Periodic role clarification is needed as individual positions turn over or are revised. Every position description should also clarify to whom that position is accountable, and provide for annual review and accountability, in order to ensure meaningful accountability. 3. Clear channels for communication and participation Nearly every congregation I’ve attended or worked with gave significant attention to how it was communicating “to” the congregation. The combination of verbal announcements when the congregation gathers, a printed bulletin, a website, and email blasts are today all standard. But less attention is given in most congregations to how the leadership hears back “from” the congregation. Two-way communication is essential in contemporary congregations, as members experienced with social media and open discussions in university classrooms generally won’t abide one-way communication for long. 4. Dignity and Respect as Cultural Norms By far the most important requirement for healthy politics is that congregations hold and practice strong cultural norms of dignity and respect. Author Donna Hicks defines these terms this way: “Dignity is our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it. Respect, on the other hand, is earned through one’s actions.” To be treated with dignity, therefore, is the inherent right of every human being — even if we are unable to accord respect to the behavior of a given individual.