Dealing With Church Politics

National Association of Christian Ministers How to Series: Ministry #

By Michael Mooney, NACM Exec. Elder

Navigating church politics can be a challenging aspect of pastoral leadership. While it’s essential to maintain a healthy and positive environment, it’s also crucial to address conflicts, power struggles, and differing opinions that can arise within a church community. Here are some pastoral strategies for handling church politics:

“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Pro 29:2).

1. Focus on the mission and values: Keep the church’s mission and core values at the forefront of decision-making and discussions.  This is probably the most important aspect of leadership.  When decisions are rooted in a shared purpose, it can help to alleviate personal agendas and promote unity.

2. Foster open and respectful communication: Encourage open dialogue and create a safe space for individuals to express their opinions and concerns. Emphasize active listening and respectful communication, even when discussing sensitive or divisive topics.

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” (Pro 11:12).

3. Lead with transparency and integrity: Be transparent in your decision-making processes and communicate the reasoning behind your choices. For whatever reason, people will accept even the most obvious reasons for why a request or a decision was made.  Always be ready to communicate “why” and or “because” actions are taken.  Demonstrate integrity in all interactions and decisions, ensuring that your actions align with the church’s values.

Further note:  The study of “because” is known as The Copy Machine Study, by Psychologist Ellen Langer.

4. Seek consensus and collaboration: Strive for consensus-building and collaborative decision-making. Involve key stakeholders and relevant parties in the decision-making process, seeking their input and feedback. This approach promotes a sense of ownership and shared responsibility within the church community.

“Have you met a person who is quick to answer? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Pro 29:20)

5. Build relationships and trust: Invest time and effort in building genuine relationships with members of the congregation. Develop trust by consistently demonstrating care, empathy, and fairness. When trust is established, it can help navigate challenging political situations more effectively.

“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” (Pro 11:13).

6. Remain neutral and impartial: As a pastor, it’s essential to maintain neutrality and impartiality, especially when conflicts arise. Avoid taking sides or favoring certain individuals or groups, and instead focus on mediating and facilitating healthy dialogue.  Everyone must believe their sides will be equally heard and considered.

“For God shows no partiality.” (Rom 2:11).

7. Encourage servant leadership: Promote a culture of servant leadership within the church. Encourage individuals to prioritize the needs of the congregation over personal ambitions or desires for power. Lead by example, demonstrating humility and a willingness to serve others.

8. Seek wisdom and guidance: Seek guidance from trusted mentors, denominational leaders, or experienced pastors who have dealt with church politics. Their insights and advice can provide valuable perspectives and strategies for managing challenging situations.

9. Emphasize prayer and spiritual discernment: Make prayer and spiritual discernment integral parts of the decision-making process. Seek God’s guidance and wisdom, both individually and collectively as a church community. Trust in the power of prayer to bring clarity and resolution.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function.” (Rom 12:3-4).

10. Encourage a spirit of grace and forgiveness: Promote a culture of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation within the church. Help individuals understand the importance of extending grace to one another, even in the midst of disagreements or conflicts. Encourage forgiveness and provide opportunities for reconciliation when necessary.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2Co 5:18).

Remember, every church community is unique, and the strategies for handling church politics may vary. The key is to prioritize unity, uphold the mission and values, and lead with integrity and transparency. By implementing these pastoral strategies, you can navigate church politics with grace and wisdom, fostering a healthy and thriving church community.