To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Denominational officials have a very limited tool box. They can credential new clergy and defrock inept ones. They can move pastors from place to place (or make suggestions if it is “call” system). They can keep both the congregation and clergy persons informed about policies and best practices. Given this tool box, every church problem looks like a leadership issue. The nail that fits the denominational official’s hammer is a church that will do better, if only they have the right pastor. But, what if governance of the congregation is dominated by a group of dysfunctional lay leaders? What if, a congregation needs to change its DNA or systemic culture? What if they need rebirth at the grass roots?
I was with a mix group of trained intentional interim clergy this past weekend. A common complaint from everyone, whether they be Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Methodist, was that the denominational leadership above them failed to appreciate that every local church is a family system. Dysfunctional church systems can’t be fixed by changing the pastor any more than an alcoholic family fixed by swapping out one parent.
So the moral is, district superintendents, bishops, and synod officials, must learn to think outside the box—their leadership oriented tool box, that is.