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From his column God, Government and Me—Money in the Church

god-government-me-07-14-1It is challenging to achieve and maintain harmony in the church—and I am not talking about how the congregation sounds when singing hymn number 467 or the latest chorus on the big screens.

If there is a lack of harmony in a church, the senior pastor, other staff, and the church’s governing board are often involved. Without good harmony between these personnel, all will be ineffective. And serious disharmony will affect a church’s financial resources as people vote with their feet and their bank accounts. So, what starts as a harmony issue may end up in budget cuts and—more importantly—lost opportunities for the church to serve Christ.

What causes a lack of harmony?

  1. The ministry leader and/or board members are not in tune with the Holy Spirit. When individuals are not experiencing a close walk with Christ, it will be evidenced by a lack of harmony in and out of church board meetings.
  2. Unrealistic expectations are maintained by the board or the senior pastor and/or vice versa. Some church boards raise the bar so high for the senior pastor in terms of how much time he or she is expected to devote to the church (i.e., being on call 24/7), that pastors simply cannot attain the anticipated level of service. On the other hand, some ministers are surprised when board members ask tough questions about his/her new initiative proposals.
  3. Board policies cause staff frustration. Some church boards set policies so tightly that pastoral staff have little flexibility in the way they function.
  4. The pastor’s actions cause board frustration. Some pastors tend to go off the reservation with decisions—moving aggressively without getting clearance from the board or perhaps not even informing the board.
  5. One or more board members are ill-equipped to serve at a certain point in time. Not every member in a church is equipped to serve as a board member at all times. Spiritual maturity and leadership skills run the gamut in every church. That is why regular spiritual health check-ups are so important for those serving in church leadership.

What are the signs of a lack of harmony?

  1. Communication deteriorates between elected church leaders and the senior pastor, or vice versa.This may be evidenced by a reduction in the level and quality of communication. Like in a marriage, clear, frequent, honest communication between leaders in the church is the key to a functional relationship.
  2. Respect, grace, and civility vanish from the boardroom. Raising important questions or strong debate is generally a healthy part of governance. However, disharmony will be evidenced by voices raised to high decibels, excessively strong words, and strongly defending positions with a weak rationale.
  3. Problem-makers outnumber problem-solvers. This imbalance is evidence of significant dysfunction.

What are the signs of strong harmony?

  1. Church officers and minister are sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Board members demonstrate strong faith when asking for God’s direction and blessing.
  3. Board members clearly understand the board’s work as Christ-centered.
  4. Board members conduct their work with Christ­-centered character.
  5. Board members pray regularly for the church, the pastor, and each other.
  6. Board members increasingly practice spiritual discernment in board decision making.
  7. Board members understand their role and God’s role in goal-setting and Kingdom outcomes.

What is the impact of harmony in a church?

  1. The name of Jesus Christ is lifted high.
  2. Fulfillment occurs—both on the part of the pastor and board members. Harmony provides a high level of service fulfillment.
  3. With harmony, many of the impediments to growth are removed.
  4. Harmony allows church leaders to focus on the really important issues and avoid unnecessarily groveling in details.

When there is harmony in the church, it is a wonder to behold. With an absence of harmony, we often take Christ off center stage—and the church suffers. John Wesley said it well: “Our responsibility is to give the world the right impression of God.”

Dan Busby is president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)—an accreditation organization that sets standards for governance, financial management, and fundraising/stewardship for churches and other nonprofits across the country.

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