Ministry leaders need the freedom to lead and the accountability to do so in line with a mutually agreed upon direction and toward mutually agreed upon goals.
Note: This is part two of a series on accountable leadership in the local church. You can read part one here.
I love soccer. I’m a big fan of the English Premier League and love it when the World Cup rolls around every four years. Soccer–also known as “the beautiful game”–is a very different sport from tennis. They have different equipment, different ways of keeping score, and different rules.
When you play a sport it’s important that you understand, and agree upon, the rules. I grew up in England. When I was a kid I was invited to play softball with some Americans.
When it was my turn to bat, I stood at the plate and swung at every pitch. I missed some. I made contact with others. The only problem was that most of my contacts I “pulled foul.”
My frame of reference for batting games was, at the time, cricket. There is no such thing as foul territory in cricket. The batsman can hit the ball behind him, in front of him, or to either side–it doesn’t matter.
Every time I hit a ball (foul), the opposing team would tell me I couldn’t run to first base. They’d act like I hadn’t legitimately hit the ball. No one thought to explain to me that the white lines along first and third base mark the area inside which the ball can legitimately be hit. It was very frustrating!
Perhaps you’ve had an experience like that in leadership. Churches regularly have a pastor who thinks she’s playing softball, a board who thinks they’re playing tennis, and members who think they’re playing checkers.
It’s a recipe for frustration.
The beauty of the accountable leadership model is that it effectively gets everyone on the same page and playing the same game. It provides a common language to describe the who, what, where, when, how, and why of ministry. In other words, it establishes clarity.
In order to move toward implementing the accountable leadership model, the board needs to work to establish three things:
- Mission principles = these principles define the object of the game. They prescribe for the Lead Pastor what outcomes the church exists to achieve. It’s important to know if success means getting a ball into the goal or getting around the bases.
- Boundary principles. The boundary principles are the rules of the game. They define the sort of actions that, if taken, will be penalized by the board. They provide the only limitations the pastor must work with in order to achieve the mission. Any means that fit within the boundaries are acceptable.
- Accountability principles. These are the principles by which we keep score or measure success. They define for the board’s process of governing. They involve how the board relates to the congregation, the board itself, and how the lead pastor relates to the board.
Accountable Leadership Model – Roles
- The board plays governance – their chief role is to discern the mind of Christ in terms of the specific ministry that God has for the congregation. This discernment is reflected in an annual plan.
- The pastor plays leader – the pastor leads the staff and ministry team leaders in the advancement of the goals. The pastor inspires the board, directs the staff, and teaches the congregation.
- The staff (volunteer or paid) plays management – the staff manage members who engage in the hands on ministry. The staff manage the operations and ministries of the church as directed by the lead pastor and in accordance with the guiding principles (above).
- The congregation plays ministry – they are the hands of feet of Christ blessing the community!
The chief benefit of this model is clarity. An added benefit is accountability. Most churches struggle to hold their lead pastors accountable for leading well. The result is that there are 101 views of the pastor’s “performance,” mostly based on individual perceptions and biases. This sets pastors up for failure and it also hurts churches too.
How the lead pastor is evaluated
- The lead pastor writes measurable goals each year that correspond to the board’s mission principles. The board gives final approval of these plans through an acceptance process.
- At the end of the year the board evaluates how well each goal was accomplished (i.e., exceptional accomplishment, significant accomplishment, minimal accomplishment)
- Each year the board rewards achievement or requires a performance plan for improving minimal achievement.