Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inside a Church Business Meeting

Allow me to take you inside a church business meeting. I’ve been employed by three different churches over the past 25 years, and have had the opportunity to sit in on many of these meetings of ecclesiastical minds.

Full disclosure here: I learned at an early age to dread and despise church business meetings. My first youth pastorate opened my eyes to just how mean, ambitious, and self-promoting humble children of God can be.

But, I must admit, meetings are necessary for any organization, and over the years I’ve attended many good, profitable business meetings; meetings where people demonstrated humility and sacrifice in the interest of the ministry. As I’ve reflected on my past experiences, I’ve realized that there are certain individuals who seem to appear in most church governing boards, like characters in a play.

The Figurehead
In many cases, this is the pastor. He’s the one everybody sees behind the pulpit, but he doesn’t wield any real power. God Himself may charge the pastor with the responsibility of the welfare of the congregation, but his hands are often tied by policies and procedures, politics and precedents. Oh, he’s loved and respected, but he’s also weak and ineffective.

The Bully
This is where the real power lies. This individual usually runs the business of the church as treasurer, president, elder, or deacon. The Bully knows what he wants and how to get it. He enters each meeting with an agenda and a plan to execute it. He usually already has his supporters lined up and knows just how the votes should turn out. Anybody who opposes or questions his agenda is blasted with emotional outbursts, and is usually intimidated into silent compliance.

The Manipulator
The Manipulator often works in conjunction with another, more aggressive personality (often paired with The Bully). The Manipulator prefers to work behind the scenes, allowing someone else to do the real dirty work, but make no mistake, she (females work best in this role) is very active.

The Spiritualist
This person wants to solve everything with prayer. There's nothing wrong with that, until it becomes a subtle form of manipulation itself. Often, after an extended prayer session, the Spiritualist receives a word from God that solves the issue at hand. Ironically, God’s direction usually agrees with what the Spiritualist had been saying all along. The Spiritualist and the Manipulator can sometimes be the same person. In this case the Manipulator teams up with God to push his or her agenda. At least that’s what she would have you believe.

The Pragmatist
The Pragmatist is the antithesis of the Spiritualist. He feels like spiritual matters are too goofy even for church business – after all, these are called “business” meetings, are they not? It all comes down to money and property, the Pragmatist will say. Spiritual stuff is fine for the pulpit, but the boardroom requires a certain worldly savoir-faire. Often Pragmatists have proven their mettle in the business world and it is widely assumed they’d be good at running the church. The Pragmatist and the Bully can also be one and the same.

The Pacifist
This person lives by the Rodney King credo: Can’t we all just get along? Everybody’s right and everybody has a good point. Pacifists can’t bear offending anyone, so they pretty much agree with whatever is being said at that very moment. Even if it contradicts something that had just previously been said. With which they also agreed.

The Servant
The Servant is able to set aside self-interest in order to seek first the kingdom of God. The Servant has no hidden agenda, but serves with humility and grace. Church boards are full of Servants, but, unfortunately, their abusive counterparts (the Bully, the Manipulator, and the Pragmatist in most cases) often overrun them. Servants tend to be meek and are ill-equipped for the fight. They are trusting by nature and don’t discern the treacherous doublespeak used by more savvy members of the committee until it’s too late.

Time for you to add your own. What other personalities have you encountered in church business meetings?


Spenx said...

Perhaps not in business meetings, but a few characters I've seen in church leader meetings include:

"The Bailiff": this is the person that before the meeting talks a big game/shows support for a certain idea/promises to back you or someone up, etc. yet when the opposition comes and confrontation appears imminent, they bail. They bail big time. They are "The Bailiff" because of their bailing. I cannot make any more puns or use it more. This person is unbelievably frustrating because, after the meeting, they usually have no idea they bailed and are The Bailiff. This person may be one and the same as The Pacifist.

"The Pastor Worshiper": This is the typical Yes Man; however, it's worse in the church. This person agrees and hangs on every word of the pastor as if he is God made flesh. The Pastor Worshiper, during the meeting and after, carries an air of superiority - as if somehow constantly agreeing with the pastor makes them a better Christian than all others. With today's technology, this is also the person that constantly 'likes' or comments on the pastor's Facebook status or tweets, somehow thinking that matters to Jesus.

One thing I'd like to add about the Spiritualist/Manipulator you wrote about - they're usually the one that pulls the "Holy Spirit" card, which renders ANY opposition useless. Even if everyone knows the person's idea was solely his/her own, how can one possibly say "that was not the Holy Spirit moving you to do that"? Impossible. A genius power move to control the situation. Another one that goes hand-in-hand with this is the "Offended" card. This means that he/she can say whatever they want, no matter how rude or offensive, and if someone gets hurt or offended, they can use the "well, carrying an offense is THEIR problem, not mine". Another win-win move - say whatever you want without any consequences.


Pastor Kip said...

Yes, Spenx - you nailed it. I've also experienced the Bailiff and the Pastor Worshiper. Your comments about the Holy Spirit and Offended card (I've actually seen that last one played from the pulpit!).

Just once, wouldn't you like to see someone call bull-hockey on a "Holy Spirit" card play?

Good observations.

Kristin said...

I am so late to this party! I didn't see this post until today.

I think that the fact that these people exist inside a church lends creedence to the mantra to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. It always frustrated me that people REFUSED to call a spade, a spade (or a Bully, a Bully) citing that church people aren't like that. It ended up that church meetings went poorly and ineffectively.
Ignoring a problem doesn't make it cease to exist.