My dad called me yesterday. He rarely calls me and if he does call, it is a brief call to discuss a piece of business (like to confirm if I am coming over on Saturday). Yesterday, he called to vent about some bad church business going on in Williamsburg.
My parents have been to the same church for about 50 years. That’s right, since they got married in 1960. They had the same pastor until 2 years ago. Let’s call the new pastor Rev. Pete. Rev Pete was voted into the church on a marginal vote. It is still questionable today if he was legally elected. My parents personally are not impressed.
Rev. Pete is not a strong leader of his group, the church. He has never verbalized his vision or any goals. He has his favorite worshippers that he confides in. He only shows up on Sundays and is rarely available during the week. My parents are suspicious about where he is Monday-Saturday. My folks have little respect for him, as well as a several of their friends. They liked the original pastor, let’s call him Rev. Joe. Rev. Joe was a great leader for 48 years. Some members were tired of Rev. Joe, so they like Rev. Pete. Rev. Pete is easy going and does not require much. He does not push the envelope.
The church, a group of about 300 members, is now split. All of the smaller teams within the church (auxillaries and mission teams) are now confused about their purpose (budget, member roles, etc) because Rev. Pete has not been clear about resources or direction. The teams are now breaking apart, members’ roles are blurred. They do not know the goals, so now competition and “back-biting” have seeped in. Ugly.
Some church members will call other members on the phone and talk about how “bad it is”. They talk about how poor communication is, what a bad leader Rev. Pete is, and thier frustration over lack of clear direction in the church. They are also talking about other church members – who is on Rev. Pete’s side and who is on the “we need to get him out of here” side. This is called gossip, and my mother is in the middle of it. The church group is split (many members have left) and the small teams are now ineffective. Members are mad at each other, and there lacks cohesion. Nobody is talking about a solution.
My dad called to vent. What should he do? After 50 years in a well- run, defined, predictable group of church members, how should he deal with this? He mentioned that the last church finance meeting, it seemed like there were two different churches there: arguing and confusion. Not a nice scenario for church members. My dad barely gets a word in at the last meeting, due to the arguing. He is distraught.
We came to the conclusion that gossiping on the phone was probably a bad thing, and mom should stop. We also agreed that the lack of respect for a leader has far reaching implications. Rev. Pete never properly socialized into the new church environment. People have not really spent any time with him, so he’s still a stranger. He probably does not know how his lack of clear vision, direction, and communication is causing all the smaller teams in the church to turn on each other and become unable to complete thier missions. No one is dealing with the problem, they are just going along, waiting to see what drama errupts next.
When do you leave a group or team? Is two years too long to operate this way? Even more, all this bad business disrupts the worship experience. That’s the whole purpose of church. Have they forgotten why they are there?
I hope that someone will school Rev. Pete soon. Perhaps a brave person will talk to him and make some suggestions to build cohesion. Some ideas may be spending time with his members ona personal level, making his role as pastor clearer, announcing his goals and make it clear for each team, and making himself available more.
Members do not have to stay in a group. Like any business or organization, without a contract, members may leave, and then it’s too late to make it better.