Few established churches turn on a dime. Some don’t turn at all. One of the contributing causes is inflexibility. Leading an organization full of inflexible people is like trying to run a marathon without bending your knees. It’s anything but smooth.
Every church has some inflexible people. Part of being a pastor is helping people get unstuck and unfrozen. And most churches also have plenty of people ready to move. Part of being a pastor is encouraging them to lead by example. Working this flexibility into the congregation takes patience, love, and a lot of time.
But on a day-to-day basis, a flexible staff is a freeing gift for the senior pastor or key church leader. Being a flexible staff person does not mean being a doormat. Nor does flexibility imply apathy. It’s also not a “whatever goes” mentality. Rather, flexibility is a willingness to give up preferences for the greater good. It’s a submissive spirit to what is best, even if it means giving up something valuable. When the church staff is flexible, a senior pastor gains several leadership advantages. I’ll share five of these advantages.
More care. When a staff person is flexible, it shows he or she cares. Servant leaders tend to be more flexible. Flexibility demonstrates selflessness. In fact, much of what drives rigidity is selfishness.
Less conflict. A flexible staff person is less likely to stir up unnecessary conflict. Inflexible people tend to create personal territories, hide in work silos, and hoard budget resources. Flexible church staff work hard to gain what is needed in their ministry areas, but they don’t have a zero-sum attitude—I must gain only at your expense.
Smoother operations. A bit of friction is required to produce a good vision. The daily operations of the church, however, do not need regular friction. In fact, daily friction will burn people out in the same way friction in an engine will blow it up. A flexible church staff adds up the work hours with little friction wearing on the church.
Higher competence. Flexible people tend to be more competent in what they do. They can move quickly in a different direction. They adapt. They improvise. They seek new challenges confidently.
Greater support. Senior pastors, please do not miss this one. If you are leading a flexible church staff, then it shows they support your leadership. The more flexible a person acts under your leadership, the more they support your leadership.
Make sure you take the time to thank your staff when they are flexible. You should not demand flexibility. Their flexibility is a gift to you. Recognize it as such.
Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com), a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog, samrainer.wordpress.com.