By Sam Rainer
Few established churches turn on a dime. Some don’t turn at all. One of the contributing causes is inflexibility. Leading an organization full of inflexible people is like trying to run a marathon without bending your knees. It’s anything but smooth.
Every church has some inflexible people. Part of being a pastor is helping people get unstuck and unfrozen. And most churches also have plenty of people ready to move. Part of being a pastor is encouraging them to lead by example. Working this flexibility into the congregation takes patience, love, and a lot of time.
But on a day-to-day basis, a flexible staff is a freeing gift for the senior pastor or key church leader. Being a flexible staff person does not mean being a doormat. Nor does flexibility imply apathy. It’s also not a “whatever goes” mentality. Rather, flexibility is a willingness to give up preferences for the greater good. It’s a submissive spirit to what is best, even if it means giving up something valuable. When the church staff is flexible, a senior pastor gains several leadership advantages. I’ll share five of these advantages.
- More care. When a staff person is flexible, it shows he or she cares. Servant leaders tend to be more flexible. Flexibility demonstrates selflessness. In fact, much of what drives rigidity is selfishness.
- Less conflict. A flexible staff person is less likely to stir up unnecessary conflict. Inflexible people tend to create personal territories, hide in work silos, and hoard budget resources. Flexible church staff works hard to gain what is needed in their ministry areas, but they don’t have a zero-sum attitude—I must gain only at your expense.
- Smoother operations. A bit of friction is required to produce a good vision. The daily operations of the church, however, do not need regular friction. In fact, daily friction will burn people out in the same way friction in an engine will blow it up. A flexible church staff adds up the work hours with little friction wearing on the church.
- Higher competence. Flexible people tend to be more competent in what they do. They can move quickly in a different direction. They adapt. They improvise. They seek new challenges confidently.
- Greater support. Senior pastors, please do not miss this one. If you are leading a flexible church staff, then it shows they support your leadership. The more flexible a person acts under your leadership, the more they support your leadership.
Make sure you take the time to thank your staff when they are flexible. You should not demand flexibility. Their flexibility is a gift to you. Recognize it as such.
Posted on January 8, 2020
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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So do you have ideas on how to encourage people to be more flexible?
Lots of stretching exercises. And the spiritual disciplines are a good place to start.
It is not my job?
After about two decades of successful work for our church, the custodian retired.
He was 65 then. It was time. He was a good guy and worked hard. He deserved a good retirement.
However, as most pastors know, a good custodian is hard to find.
So, what did the church do? Hire two part – timers. A man and a woman.
The church was divided into two sections with job descriptions for each.
There was a check list of things to do daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
Well, as one might guess, something happened.
The ladies bathroom on the “border” territory had a commode that stopped up. Water went everywhere.
The main secretary went to use that restroom and discovered the problem.
She came to the pastor with it.
The pastor went to custodian One and reported the problem: She said, “That is not in my territory.”
The pastor went to custodian Two and reported the problem: He said, “That is not my territory”.
I told the secretary about it. She said, “Well, you know what it will be like Sunday if one of the ladies steps into that bathroom.”
Guess who cleaned up the bathroom. You got it! The pastor.
How do I know?
I was the pastor.
What would you do?
I’m not exactly sure of what you mean by “flexible staff”, but judging from the context. you seem to be talking about staff members who are willing to go outside their own job descriptions, and who are concerned with more than just their particular area of ministry. If that is what you mean, then I’m 100 percent in agreement. I have very little patience for a staff member who says, “That’s not my job.” I’m the senior pastor, and I do quite a few things that aren’t in my job description. I do them simply because they need to be done. I expect no less from my staff.
A Closed Fist…and an Open Hand!
Knowledge of God’s word, wisdom & discernment are needed to understand that which we must hold on to with a closed fist, and that which requires an open hand.
There are biblical absolutes and also non-absolutes. We must identify which elements in ministry fit into which hand. Lord, please help us!
Like everything else in life there is a balance that needs to be had here. Change for the sake of change is hard for me to latch on to. If I see a good reason for change or flexibility lets go for it. If I see that the work and cost exceeds the benefits I can tend to dig my heels in. If my senior pastor tells me this is what we are doing then it is my responsibility to follow through. But it sure helps if I can see the reasons for it.
Just reading your response. What if every member felt and reacted like you. What kind of atmosphere would the Church have.
Gee Rob, surely you aren’t suggesting that the pastor’s decisions should be questioned are you? And are you really saying you should have an opinion that differs from the pastor? What kind of atmosphere would it create in the church if a staff member or person in the pew believed his opinions actually mattered?
I’d love to find out.
Just saying. Tongue-in-cheek-wise.