You know who I’m talking about.
They are the bullies, the gossips, the haters. They might be incompetent or simply ineffective. They might be The Big Givers who inspire fear that “they will leave” if challenged. They could be . . .
- The former pastor’s widow who is beyond criticism.
- The music director who is “beloved” and yet quite difficult.
- The long-time volunteer who complains about how many years she “has had to do this job” but she won’t let anyone else do it.
- The Elder Emeritus who blocks all change.
- The nonagenarian who holds the congregation hostage with his Disapproval Face.
- The Top Giver who threatens to “cut his pledge” if she doesn’t get her way.
They are seemingly untouchable no matter how cranky, obstinate, mopey, or cruel they might be.
Imagine what would happen if skilled leaders held these sisters and brothers accountable. In Crucial Conversations, Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler write:
“In the worst companies, poor performers are first ignored and then transferred. In good companies, bosses eventually deal with problems. In the best companies, everyone holds everyone else accountable – regardless of level or position.”
The same is true for healthy congregations and their senior/solo pastors. Imagine:
- Leaders with the spiritual confidence to refute gossip as soon as they hear it.
- Parishioners with the integrity to stand up to bullies the very moment of bullydom.
- Pastors who hold volunteers accountable and set term limits for the health of the organization.
- Volunteers who happily mentor their replacements so that they serve in a position no more than 3 years, and then pass the baton.
- Important conversations that happen regularly and while they might heat up, they never explode.
- Congregations of people who share a common purpose and refuse to make it about any one person (unless we count Jesus.)
- Parishioners resilient enough to welcome constructive criticism for the sake of being a more faithful church.
Who are The Untouchables in our congregations? And who will have the courage and faith to ask them if they realize that they are hurting the very church they say they love?