Describing Sticky – Here’s what we mean by a Sticky church leadership team:
1.The senior (or solo) pastor is a godly and loving man who truly cares about each member of the church board and staff and knows how to communicate his love and support. He is their champion and cheerleader.
2.The senior pastor’s integrity and honesty are unquestioned. There is a high level of trust in this man.
3.Staff members (in the smaller church this would be volunteer ministry leaders) are accountable to one leader: the senior pastor. He is their boss, but he is a great boss. They feel treasured by him.
4.The pastor is clearly the number one leader among a team of equals (the board) to whom he is accountable as an employee. He is their brother, fellow struggler, spiritual shepherd, employee and leader. The board knows that while he seeks to lead them, he will also submit to their authority.
5.The pastor is someone Jim Collins (Good To Great) would call a “level five” leader. He cares passionately about the effectiveness of his church. He is self-effacing, humble, tenacious and committed. He is willing to be the iconic, public face of the church, but only because he knows that this will help the church to succeed in its mission.
6.The pastor patiently leads the church through concentric circles of authority and influence. When he has a great idea to propose, he first convinces the board and the staff, then a larger group of leaders and finally, with the support of all of the above, the matter is implemented or brought to the congregation.
7.The board members are mature individuals with a high degree of emotional intelligence. None of them has “an axe to grind.” They are not focused on single issues or interests. They have a good understanding of the pastor’s job and they do not want it. They desire the board member role as a position of service because they feel called to it, not because they want to control the church or protect the church from the pastor.
8.The board members have been trained, or at least brought to a place of agreement as to what the board member’s role should look like, in their particular congregation. There is clarity and agreement on the board member’s role. While the board member’s role can vary from healthy church to healthy church, a few aspects of it are essential:
- The board members work closely with the pastor to ensure that good shepherding care is offered to all attendees. (It does not all come from “the pastor.”)
- The board members make sure that the church is managed well, without trying to manage it themselves or forcing the senior pastor to major on administration.
- The board members do not manage employees directly (except the senior pastor). They work closely with the senior pastor on matters of church and staff member discipline when necessary.
- The board members assist the senior pastor with staff member hiring and dismissal.
- The board members work closely with the pastor as the church’s crisis team in times of trouble.
- The board members are highly supportive and protective of the senior pastor, as in the wonderful illustrationinvolving the village chieftain up in the top of the tree deciding where the tribe should move next and the village elders at the bottom of the tree ensuring that the villagers can’t climb up the tree and the chieftain can’t climb down the tree! Their spears are normally pointed out, towards the village. If necessary, they turn their spears upward to chase the chieftain back up to his perch.
- The board members allow and expect the pastor to dream about what the church can be, to design a ministry strategy to help make that dream a reality and to direct staff and volunteers as that dream is pursued.
- The board members hold the senior pastor strictly accountable as to his character, his ethics and his performance. Board members understand that as the pastor’s “boss,” they are ultimately accountable to the congregation for his life and work.
- Board members work with the pastor at the task of governance: creating the “sides of the sandbox” (as in Tim Addington’s Leading from the Sandbox) or the soccer field (as in the teachings of Knute Larson). In either illustration, the work of the board centers around values, mission, vision, strategy, guiding principles and policies. Compatible lay leaders and staff members are invited to “play” in the sandbox or on the soccer field.
‘Sound good? The challenge is…
Getting To Sticky
- Sticky starts with the solo or senior pastor. Extremely rare is the pastor/board team that gets to Sticky through the leadership of anyone except the pastor. Pastor: You’ll never lead your church effectively without getting Sticky, so put your nose to the grindstone and go to work.
- Sticky normally involves deliberate training of board members led (or arranged) by the pastor. There are a number of possible formats which can be used for this. Find a methodology that works in your setting. You can’t get around the need to do this. Avoid trying to educate elders through a few minutes of discussion at the beginning of board meetings. The FLD has a Quick Guide on this subject which you’ll find helpful.
- Sticky is going to take time and it isn’t going to be easy. Even with the best pastor on board, achieving Sticky is going to take a few years and some deliberate effort. Think in terms of five years to get to
- Getting to Sticky requires a lot of maturity on the part of the pastor. Re-read what we’ve written above about pastors. The immature or insecure pastor is never going to lead a team to Pastor: how do you need to change/grow before you can lead a team to Sticky?
- Getting to Sticky requires trust building which requires relationship building. Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions Of A Team is a great resource. We must know each other well enough to love each other well enough to tell each other the truth. Christians should be good at this, but we’re usually not. Take the time to get to know each other well. Use inventories and assessment tools (there are MANY of them out there), learn, laugh, weep and pray for each other.
- The Sticky concept is going to eliminate many potential board members, isn’t it? Re-read what we’ve said above about their character and conduct. Some long-time board members will never stop their second guessing, managerial meddling, single-issue advocacy, mistrust or willfulness. Many board members have been poorly trained for their role – or not trained at all – and are teachable. Some are not teachable. Many have been “taught” by the ingrained habits and traditions of the dysfunctional boards they were recruited to in the past.
- The Sticky concept may require a gradual transition to newer, younger elders who have been discipled and mentored in your church. You may have to “Outlove ‘em, outlive ‘em and outlast ‘em.” Pastors can find future board members from among the men they are discipling. Prospective board members can also be invited to be non-voting attendees of board meetings for a year at a time.
- Getting to Sticky requires patience on everyone’s part. Church members must wait for their leaders to “get their act together.” Pastors must wait for board members to “get it.” Board members must wait for their young pastors to mature and earn the right to lead.
- Mentors can help a church get to Pastors need help from mentors who are already Sticky pastors. Board members (including the all-important board chairman) can be greatly helped by their own mentors: Sticky board members from within their own churches or even from nearby churches. There are some wonderful board members out there; savvy pastors can recruit them to help their own board-members-in-training.