A Step of Discernment – Defining Reality Part One

Part of the Council’s discernment work is to define the congregation’s present reality. Charles Olson in his book Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual Leaders points out that the council’s culture is an important area to define reality in. Only when the council names this reality can it move toward becoming a community of spiritual, discerning leaders.

Olson sees 8 different cultures that shape councils:

Advisory Culture:

The board is a rubber stamp and its main purpose is to support the pastor and staff as they do the work.

Political Culture:

Board members see themselves as representing certain groups within the congregation. The board makes decisions by negotiating between competing voices and their constituencies.

Broker Culture:

Board members are power brokers who can get favors from people in the broader community. This board trades favors with people in the community for the good of the church. Board members are selected because of what they can get.

Bureaucratic Culture:

The board is formed around specialized functions, strong rules and a hierarchy of authority. The church is committee based. The committees are not based on the mission of the congregation but on “theological oughtness, i.e. we ought to worship, we ought to do evangelism therefore we ought to have those committees.” In this culture people find affirmation and visibility by the positions they hold.

Managerial Culture:

The board manages the ministries of the church; board members are chosen because they have particular skills at managing. In this scheme the pastor becomes the mentor, director, cheerleader, and problem solver. The pastor is also to have a balcony view of the entire ministry assuring that things stay on track.

Next post: Three more cultures.

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