top of page

Authority and Control / Making a Church Work

There is a cycle that occurs during the operation of a church. It’s not a vicious cycle, but it does surface, regularly. I know that when the cycle emerges in the church, the chances of hard feelings increase significantly and almost always it creates a wedge in church relationships.

I investigate the lives of churches on a regular basis. The cycle goes something like this…

1st a need arises. It’s stimulated by needs like: we need help with hospitality, with church music, with Sunday School, with music or technology.

2nd someone invests their time, often a great deal of time, and usually some money, that comes out of a volunteer’s pocket.

3rd they take control. You hear and agree, “If I do the job, I should be able to do it the way I want to do it.”

Asks, “Do I have a right to do it my way?” the obvious answer is, ‘Of course!’ So, the church turns the volunteer loose with good intentions and our blessings, “God has given us an answer!” But too often it is a blessing and a curse. Eventually two side effects surface…

Side Affect #1: The solution does not look exactly as the church expected. Sometimes it’s good enough. When the recipients of this service want a little more or a little different, the person who stepped up may feel offended, or simply tapped out. They are doing everything they can. It’s easy to recognize this or similar conversation.

Side Affect #2: The church accepts the volunteers help, praises God for the work being done and moves forward, never developing contingencies for leadership. The volunteer who offers to help with good intentions, is now given the authority to do what’s needed. Very quickly the church’s problem is now the volunteer’s problem. You hear comments like, ”If you want to do anything about that, you must get approval from…”

The church abdicates control and now an individual acts on their best, and biased position. To regain control is difficult at best. Telling someone we need more, better, or different will not likely bode well for the church or any of those in the discussion.

Today, I am thinking about several things . The synergy between my role as Interim Pastor, my role as Director of Interim Ministry for the ABCCR and my role as a consultant for a small not-for-profit seem to have blended into very similar issues. Here are some common questions I am noticing…

1st When a person accepts a role, does that give them unilateral permission to tell others what to do?

2nd Are they stuck for life in this role and the problems associated with the program?

3rd When a volunteer offers to help, how does the church, or a not-for-profit organization, avoid abdicating their responsibility for the problem?

4th How does the church maintain its voice? Should it still have a voice?

5th When a group in the church, like a Sunday School Class, decides to do anything, are they autonomous? Do they function without accountability to the church?

· Does every activity need to be approved by the Board?

· When, or should, activities and outcomes be reported to the Board?

· If the group uses its own money, do they need the church at all?

· Does the group have the right to tell the church what to do in this area of need, or do they exist to meet a need?

I ask myself, and invite you to think with me the following situations and questions…






I serve on the Board. I have a right to tell the people we help what to do?


​I spend significant time working around the church I have a right to say how we do things?


​I give a significant amount of money to the church. I have the right to say how it will be used?


I have unique skills and God’s gifts to do some things in the Church. I determine how and when I use my skills?


If the church does not like what I do or how I do it, I can leave?

My answer to the first four questions is ‘Maybe.’ Your actions are yours and my actions are mine, both are driven by God and belong to God. If my choices support me and not the glory of God, then I have sinned. I have become more important that others? I have accepted (or believe I have rights) because of what I do or have done. Years of serving faithfully means I bring expertise; it never elevates me above everyone else!

Situation 5 above, is different. Family is family. We can disown someone, but that should be rare, and I must remember that they genetically never stop being family. Today, we float from church to church as our emotions deem appropriate. The threat of leaving if I do not get my own way is terrorism not Christianity. Love in exchange for what I do, give, or believe. If I am part of the Family of God, then leaving should never be a consideration.

There’s a lot of thinking in this article. Would you give me a call this week and help me think through it? Please consider giving me a call or stop by the church and let’s talk?

Pastor Bill

19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page