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Church Leadership and the Illusion of Control

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Church leaders are supposed to be the best kind of leaders, right? Caring, humble, courageous, strong, and selfless. The term controlling probably wouldn’t make a top-10-list of attributes to describe the ideal church leader. Now I know you’re not a control freak, I mean you’re way to godly for that. But if you’re on a church staff I’m sure you’ve served with a control freak at some point. And control freaks are dangerous, especially in the church.

The other day my 11-year-old daughter was asking me about a group of people she perceived to be controlling. With the innocent insight that only a child seems to have she said, “In the books I read people who are controlling are usually the bad guys.”

So here’s to hoping that you never turn out to be a “bad guy.”

Control is an Illusion

I’m about to say something that’s going to be difficult for some of you to hear. You’re not in control. I know you think you are…but…you’re not. Control is an illusion. I know all of you’re calendaring, budgeting, planning, organizational charts, and administrating tell you that I’m wrong. But I’m right. Those things lull you into thinking you’re in control and provide the illusion of control. It’s comfortable, like a warm blanket. But don’t be seduced into becoming a control freak. You’ll be in for a very rude awakening one day.

Jesus isn’t a Control Freak

Jesus is a gentleman. If you want to go down a path that isn’t good for you or others around you, He’ll actually let you do that. He may be sad for you because the choice isn’t the best for you, but He’s not going to freak out or fret about your choice. He most likely isn’t going to rescue you from the consequences of your decisions but He’ll let you make them. Even when He knows how life is designed to work and you choose your own way.

Your Policies can’t Control Outcomes

I know that you think your policies will make everybody behave the way you want them to and make everything run like a predictable well-oiled machine but unfortunately they won’t. I know that statement is hard for some of you to read, I’m sorry. I really am. I wish it weren’t true, it be easier if it weren’t true. But it is. Your policies might help you mitigate some risk, they may help you institutionalize the culture you’re trying to build, but they won’t control outcomes. No matter what policy you have in place, if someone wants to do something stupid, they will. Oh, and when you do try to control everything with over policying (I don’t think that’s a word) things, you’ll actually drive your most talented team members away.

Your Team needs to be Unleashed not Controlled

I know you think you’re pretty special, truth is you are. But Jesus has gifted your team with some pretty incredible gifts too. In fact I bet they have gifts that you don’t have. Controlling leaders stifle fun, innovation, and ultimately production. Your team needs to be empowered and unleashed to be who Jesus has created them to be. That’s when they’ll have the most fun and you’ll get the greatest results. The sad, and very dangerous, thing is controlling church leaders actually stifle personal growth in others and the expansion of the Gospel.

The Only thing you can Control is your Attitude and your Effort

The good news is there is something you can control, and that’s you. You are responsible for what happens inside of you, how you respond to life, and the actions you take. Every moment of every day you have the incredible opportunity to control your attitude and your effort. There’s not much that you can actually control and change, but you can control and change you. Truth is, that’s probably enough. Much more and it would probably be a bit overwhelming.

Photo Credit: fishbulb1022 via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

One Response to “Church Leadership and the Illusion of Control”

  1. Vincent Tomei September 12, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

    Paul, you have nailed it, seriously!

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