Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why churches don't make decisions

My observation traveling around the country is that elders (our primary church decision makers in Churches of Christ) are, for the most part, effectively frozen as decision makers.

Why do our elders struggle to make decisions?

4 core reasons:
1.  Elders work in a committee structure.We have practiced, and biblically so, a plurality of elders to shepherd a congregation. In a shepherding context this is necessary. In a decision making context it is problematic. Just think how seldom elders meet and how crowded their thinking time is when they have people and organizational issues to think through. Then we add consensus to the mix.

2.  We've adopted a polite, democratic process. In a small eldership, up to four men, it's possible to work through questions reasonably rapidly. After that the complexity multiplies geometrically. Then, those men equipped  by personality, gifted by God and honed by use to make decisions rapidly must either wait for the slower people to work through the question or risk being "charismatic tyrants" always pushing for their way. The polite, spiritually mature path is to be polite--and wait.

3.  The one-person veto. This reason is empowered by the polite, democratic process. Any one person has the right to keep a decision "in committee" with the words "I'm just not comfortable with this." There does not need to be explanation, reason or rationale given.

4.  Risk aversion. Elders often say, or think, "a good week is one without problems." Elders, by the function of their people focus and problem minimizing role are naturally risk averse. Changes and decisions are always risk-full when risk is measured by whether or not someone complains. We're people; we love to complain!
      Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know at


      Joel Maners said...

      Spot on. One other thing is it's a part time job. Just imagine getting home from a hectic day and instead of relaxing, you have more problems to deal with. I can hear it now, "Can't you folks just get along?" And don't even think of asking me to lead some sort of change that might lead to another conflict. We have enough of that already.

      eglonthefat said...

      I agree Joel. This stems from the process of making men elders in their 40's when they are going through some of the busiest times in their lives. This is just another reason elders should be older men(I belive 50 would be a good starting point).