From the back of my friend’s napkin

12

06/09/2013 by Chris Green

I recently had lunch with an old friend who is also the pastor of a large (in UK terms) church – 600 members, grown pretty much from scratch. I was hungry for my Thai curry, but hungrier to learn.

As we mulled over various things, he sketched out some of the basic maps he uses to plot the ministry structure of the church, and how he fits into a large church with a large staff.

One of them was a basic, four-square grid. You’ll need a couple of definitions so you can make sense of the diagram.

20130906-105724.jpg

Accountability means being held accountable to the vision, values and culture of the church. What you’re doing expresses the church’s DNA.
Control means being tightly managed by someone. There’s little room for error or individuality, because details matter.

So there are roughly four options:

  • High control + Low accountability
  • High control + High accountability
  • Low control + Low accountability
  • Low control + High accountability

As my friend talked on, two conclusions became clear.

20130906-105737.jpg

First, pastors seem to have an innate tendency to put everything in that top right hand box. If we are being kind to ourselves, it’s because we’re dealing with the gospel, everything connects to the gospel, and therefore everything matters. The alternative would be to allow in a false gospel, which would would wreck everything.

That all being true, I think there’s still a difference between saying ‘We need to watch ourselves doctrinally’, and saying, ‘I am the only person I trust to do that.’ Really? You trust everyone else that little? And you trust yourself that much? Perhaps we should ask some hard questions about just how highly we value ourselves.

20130906-105745.jpgSecond, – and this was a real shock – my friend insisted that the small groups in his church go in the top left box: there is low control but high accountability. They have a huge amount of freedom over what they study (although there are resources provided centrally if they need them), but they are tightly accountable over their attitude to studying the Bible together. Why they learn together is much more important than what they learn together.

He insists this isn’t abdicating, because he has rebuked and disciplined at least one group for their patterns and conclusions which violated the church’s values.

So the exercise from his diagram is a double challenge.

First, sketch out those four squares and see where most things in your church tend to fall. Is the right-hand ‘controlled’ side the diagram over-populated? Is that top-right square over populated? Do you have anything at all in the top left square? And what absolutely must remain highly accountable and highly controlled?

And second, what do you you think of my friend’s determination to keep the small groups highly accountable but loosely controlled?

As usual, pile in with your comments below.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “From the back of my friend’s napkin

  1. Dan Henderson says:

    Thanks Chris, another diagram (Ever)noted!

    I’d be happy with the low control / high accountability for small groups…if, as described, that means there’s solid effective channels between the leadership and groups so problems can be addressed.

    It sounds like, by control, you’re largely talking about content. I think there’s something great about a group hungry to study the bible together deciding what they want to study. And of course, there’s the provided material if needed. If by low control that means no clear leader of the group and no regular relationship between the leader and the staff team then I’d worry, but from what you’ve described that’s classified more under accountability.

    I guess I would be looking to synchronise the groups at particular times when it’d benefit the whole church to be on given topic – like Lent, to give an Anglican example. We turn small groups into open lent groups for four weeks to give people who aren’t in a small group a road in and it helps to have everyone on the same material for that.

    • Chris Green says:

      Thanks, Dan. Yes – part of the high accountability is the strong, two way relationships that produce the level of trust necessary. I think my friend would be happier with some flakier content occasionally, because they are a consequence of having taken a risk to trust someone.

      (Like, in which box will your daughter’s choice of boyfriends go?)

  2. Chris Toss says:

    I guess what this re-highlights for me is the uncomfortable bottom left corner. Those ministries where we have low control and where there is low accountability. As I look at what they are, they fall into two categories (1) they tend to be the things that exist for their own sake because they have a historical heritage of having existed for many years and the prospect of changing/sharpening them up is next to impossible for a multitude of reasons! The second category is perhaps more uncomfortable, those ministries which may well be newish – but have vision-less ‘leadership’, and again a resistance to change and so personal detachment for them has set in. This type of exercise has reinforced for me the need to run a leadership course for those involved in ministry. Something which we’re planing to do this term.

  3. Phil Allcock says:

    So the point of the post was probably not that I spend 5 minutes of sermon prep time trying to guess which pastor you were having lunch with…?

    • Chris Green says:

      Oh, I schmooze with the greats, Allcock. You will notice you and I haven’t broken bread together for a while… 😉

      • dave Williams says:

        Re home groups one question on control is membership. Free for all choose your own or allocated by leaders. Did your friend have a view on this.
        Maturity must play a role as well. With individuals control starts higher. i am more likely to meet with a new preacher before hand to go through the sermon than with a seasoned speaker but they must still brought accountable. Does that read across to groups. New group sometimes means higher control.

  4. […] Chris Green had a very interesting chat with a friend recently about attitudes to control in ministry […]

  5. ateamjapan says:

    Where’s the napkin?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Join my email list, and get my free eBook Bible studies on 1 Thessalonians ‘PURITY: Living to please God in an impure world’

God, Suffering and Joy

A conversation between me (with cancer) and Michael (with Multiple Sclerosis)

Preview and buy ‘Finishing the Race’

You can buy the new edition of 'Finishing the Race' from 10ofthose , or see a preview HERE .

Terms and conditions

This blog does not share personal information with third parties nor do I store any information about your visit to this blog other than to analyse and optimise your content and reading experience. I am not responsible for republished content from this blog on other blogs or websites without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

I welcome your participation on the Ministrynutsandbolts site, and invite you to share ideas elsewhere on what you learn and read here. At the same time, I ask that you respect my intellectual property rights in the process.

You are welcome to link to my site or any specific post on my site, extract and re-post less than 200 words on any other site, provided you link back to my original post, or print my posts in any non-commercial publication (e.g., company newsletter, class syllabus, church newsletter, etc.), provided you include this copyright notice: “© 2016 Chris Green. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.ministrynutsandbolts.com.”

Please do not do the following without written consent: Re-post one of my posts in its entirety anywhere else on the Internet, use this content in for commercial purposes, including selling or licensing printed or digital versions of my content, or alter, transform, or build upon this work.

If you have some use for my content that is not covered here, please contact me. If you would like me to do a guest post on your blog, email me at ministrynutsandbolts@gmail.com

Copyright does not apply to the titles of books, but transparency means I should own that the title of the blog is taken from the excellent 'Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don't Teach Pastors in Seminary ' by Aubrey Malphurs (Kregel: 2nd edn. 2009)

© 2016 Chris Green