The Surprising #1 Topic I Hear About from Pastors

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I hear from pastors in a number of ways because of my work as a Christian psychologist and clergy trainer in emotional intelligence – through email, comments on my blog articles, in counseling sessions and so on – and on a variety of topics. What’s your guess on the #1 topic that I hear about?

  • Pornography?

  • Marital issues?

  • Depression?

Well, at some time or another a pastor or two has spoken with me and raised those issues.

However – and you may find this surprising – the #1 problem I hear from pastors revolves around  managing difficult relationships with members but especially conflict with the church board.

So, I recently read Stan Toler’s book, Practical Guide to Leading Church Boards. Perhaps you’ve read this 2012 work. If so, you know it’s one of those basic, yet profound books.  Well worth a read or re-read. As football coaches sometimes do with their professional teams, Stan simply helps the reader refocus on basics.

Take for example his reminder that the “primary function of the church board is to provide oversight and to ensure the organization is operating in alignment with its values to achieve its mission –to fulfill the Great Commission however the local church envisions that taking place”. (p. 13)

That’s worth some thought! Does your board truly focus on ensuring the church is “operating in alignment with its values?”

Along the way Toler discusses

  • how to manage expectations of board members

  • how to develop long term strategies

  • how to equip new board members

  • how to navigate a changing of the guard

  • problems with  both ‘yes boards’  and ‘adversarial boards’.

I personally found the chapter Managing Clashing Opinions and Personalities especially relevant and “emotionally intelligent”. He suggests that pastors approach board difficulties with a view to “redeeming conflict”. Here’s how he says you can do that:

  • Teach people to listen to one another

  • Teach people that disagreement is not necessarily negative

  • Insist that people maintain respect for one another

  • Give all sides a fair hearing

  • Try to achieve consensus

Toler teaches that conflict is inevitable. How we manage conflict determines direction towards healthy, productive movement or destructive, negative climates.

I recommend Practical Guide to Leading Church Boards. You can find it on in bookstores online. It’s worth a read! However, perhaps you know and excellent resource. If you do, leave a comment below.


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