Tag Archive: org chart

When A Backward or Lateral Move Is Okay

3D man climbing up the ladder
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Church staff members aren’t exempt from a ladder-climbing mentality. We’re not exempt from wanting more pay or recognition. We’re not exempt, but we can’t allow that mentality to drive our decisions.

As a Christian, and one whom has fully given your life’s vocation to Christ, you must pursue and prioritize that calling first, and above all else.

While living in Texas, I served a great church as Executive Pastor. However, I felt like God had a different church for me to serve. The opportunity God presented was a church in Nashville that already had an executive pastor. So, what was I to do? (Stage a coup, perhaps?)

The church did, however, want to offer me the role of “Associate Executive Pastor.” It was an executive pastor, but not THE Executive Pastor. Was I okay with the demotion? Was I going to be okay not only being a second-chair leader to the Senior Pastor, but also to the Executive Pastor?

When people asked about the new position I was leaving for, would I be okay with verbally inserting “associate” before the rest of my title?

There may be times in your ministry when God calls you to be in a place or position that seems like a step backwards, or sideways. It could mean less title, less money, less authority, and less recognition.

Sometimes it’s clearly a demotion of sorts. Other times, it may just seem that way. But either way, you’ll have to decide on the front-end if you can deal with it.

When I was making my decision, it helped me to realize that pursuing the call and position God provided me is never a demotion. I had no idea what God would allow me to do as Associate Executive Pastor. I couldn’t understand the value I’d gain in the “associate” role, and I didn’t understand how the role would unfold over time.

If you’re ever in this situation, here are a few reminders about when a lateral or backwards move might make sense:

  1. When you feel God telling you to do it
  2. When it’s best for your church
  3. When you’ve got more to learn
  4. When a new supervisor could help you develop
  5. When it gives you the best opportunity for the long-term direction you want to go

When you feel God telling you to do it – God is sovereign over your ministry career-path. Don’t fight it.

When it’s best for your church – There could be short or long seasons when your taking a different or lesser role is best for the church. It could positively impact other staff, or be a healthy financial adjustments for the church. Many people avoid these moves, by moving away from the church. In some situations that may be what needs to happen, but consider first what’s best for the church you serve.

When you’ve got more to learn – This was true for me. The associate position put me in a place to learn a lot more about the role. I wasn’t prepared to lead in THE executive pastor role. I benefitted from first learning more.

When a new supervisor could help you develop/make you happier – A move laterally or backwards could put you in an excellent seat to learn from another person. A change in scenery, a change in reporting, can give you a new perception. This was true for me. I benefitted significantly from the Executive Pastor. I wouldn’t trade that learning opportunity to have had his seat at the time.

When it gives you the best opportunity for the long-term direction you want to go – God may or may not reveal this to you on the front-end, but sometimes a pause in the ladder-climbing allows you the greatest opportunity to get where God desires you to be (and rings true with your understanding of your calling).

p.s. I’m quite confident eternity will not include name plates, business cards, org charts or résumés.

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Church Staff & The Minion Treatment


Photo courtesy of iStockphoto®

There’s a direct correlation between the person who interrupts others and monopolizes conversations, and where they’re placed on the organizational chart. And recent studies have shown that the more leadership responsibilities you have, the more likely you are to become that person.

Daniel Goleman, in article for Harvard Business Review (December 2013) describes how conversation-monopolizers and conversation-interrupters usually increase their poor habits as they move higher on an organizational chart or in social standing.

We’ve all seen this happen. It’s the church member whose family was involved in founding the church… it’s the long tenured staff member… it’s the employee who’s just moved positions and been provided more staff oversight.

Goleman’s article points out that as leaders rise in an organization, their ability to perceive and maintain a personal connection begins to wane.  This is called psychic attrition. He summarizes a Berkeley psychologist who says “higher-ranking individuals consistently focus their gaze less on lower-ranking people and are more likely to interrupt or to monopolize the conversation.”

Sociologists are able to watch the conversational interactions in a workplace and closely map who fits where on their organization chart. Our churches are not exempt from these studies. Could a sociologist come into your ministry area and pinpoint where people fit on an org chart? They’re not measuring who’s leading the meetings they view – they’re measuring who’s being rude to whom.

This is not always true and it doesn’t have to be true of you and me. In fact, I hope if sociologists were to study church staffs, they’d find a gap in their theory. However, I’m a realist and I’ve been around enough church staffs to know we’re not immune.

Bottom line: the higher we rise, the more responsibility we get, the more likely we are to pay less attention or care less deeply for the people below us.

If you’re still reading and haven’t moved on to a different blog site with a bigger title, you still may be thinking this doesn’t apply to you. When you think psychic attrition, you think of your Pastor or chairman of your leadership council – but not yourself. Surely a minister in the church wouldn’t forget or ignore the little people. Right? Wrong. It happens.

How do you fair in psychic attrition? As you’ve moved up on the org chart, gotten bigger titles and more degrees, have your personal connections dropped? Are your conversations with people directly linked to what their position title deserves?

To get the most accurate grading of your psychic attrition, ask a trusted staff person or spouse what they’ve observed – and take their feedback seriously.

Our propensity toward psychic attrition (or as I call it, a “too big for your britches” or “too busy for the little people” mentality) can be corrected. Begin asking God for help. We have the opposite of psychic attrition modeled for us by Jesus, so let’s follow his example. I have a feeling if Goleman’s sociologists were to observe Jesus and His followers, and try to map His leadership style, they’d likely have their org chart inverted.

Fight back against psychic attrition with baby steps:

  1. For a day, commit to not interrupting a single person… hear people out, even if they have meandering explanations or their stories aren’t an efficient use of your time.
  2. Learn the names and stories of people far below you on an org chart, or those who aren’t in your current leadership circles.
  3. Speak less in meetings—don’t monopolize. (I’ve previously blogged about the appropriate amount of talking at meetings.)

Next week, I’ll summarize some more thoughts about empathy amongst leaders, and what Goleman says is a specific type of empathy leaders need to have.

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