mgpcpastor's blog

Group-Centered Leadership (via Dan Hotchkiss)

2 Comments

Dan Hotchkiss observes that churches of a certain size tend toward staff-centered leadership structures. The first advantage of that structure is that they usually depend on one leader, and any disruption to that leader can have an inordinately disruptive effect on the organisation.
He then points out a second, more philosophical disadvantage that resonates with my understanding of how a local church should function.

A second disadvantage of staff-centered structures is a disadvantage only if you believe, as I do, that committed groups are capable of making better decisions than individuals can. I don’t always enjoy group decision-making, but I have found again and again that a community willing to be patient with people’s differences and indecision will correct and improve the insights of even the most gifted individuals. If you agree with me that wide participation adds an essential element to a congregation’s search for truth, then a strictly staff—centered congregation seems wrong. Even if the staff-centered model were always more effective at producing practical results, it would leave me dissatisfied because it does not make use of every member’s gifts for discerning the congregation’s mission. This concern, at bottom, is theological: I think each of us comes with a built-in antenna tuned to the fight frequency to hear the promptings of the Spirit, and congregations ought to take advantage of it. I also believe what people call the “politics” of congregations has a good side because a group in conversation can perceive more about what is good and right than the sum of what its members can perceive alone. For these reasons, I choose congregational participation with its messiness, even though I sometimes envy the efficiency of the staff-centered way.

Dan Hotchkiss, Governance And Ministry, Rowland & Littlefield, 2016, pg 42.

2 thoughts on “Group-Centered Leadership (via Dan Hotchkiss)

  1. The term “Presbyterian”, as applied to a Church, is anglicised from Greek for “Of elders”. In my teens I saw how the Kirk Session, a parish assembly of theologically untrained “elders”, could function as a right wing bourgeois oligarchy, ridding itself of a Christian conscience embodied in a fine, humane Pastor.
    Much evil has emanated from pseudo-democracies.

    • I’m sad to read about your experience. I wish I could say I’ve never heard of negative situations like that. I’ve been blessed by the people I serve with. I’m committed to honouring them by encouraging them in their service.
      The book in question makes observations about dynamics common to groups of various sizes and his comments were about larger sized groups. What you’re describing may have been reflected in his observations about smaller to medium sized groups.

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