Support and Resources For Pastors and
Christian Ministry Professionals
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor
| MH Website Overview | Ministry Resources
| MH Archives | MH Dissertations
Thirty Things Your Denominational
Executive May Not Tell You*
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
- Number 343
- Denominational Executives come vested with all kinds of titles--Bishops, District
Superintendents, District Presidents, Conference Chairs et al. Whatever their title
is an important office. As "overseers" they have many responsibilities which, in many
cases, impacts and influences congregational ministry in important ways.
- Many leadership positions carry a certain "mystique". This mystique also carries with it a sort of
enigmatic mysteriousness which sometimes causes others to ask, "What is that District President
doing?" "Why did the Bishop do that?" "Why didn't the DS intervene in
some other way?"
- Certainly the best way to find accurate answers to these questions is to
speak directly with the respective
denominational executive. When approached hopefully they will share what they can
do and what support and guidance they can offer to address your present
ministry needs in a professional and supportive manner.
- Sometimes, as frustrating as it may be, direct answers may not be given.
It may not because they don't want to. Instead it may be because they simply
can't for reasons they cannot disclose. When this occurs, their silence may
become an issue which can undermine their support unless
people--and especially pastors--develop a sense of what it's like to be a denominational
- What is it like to be a denominational executive? Perhaps a greater understanding of a denominational executive's doings
can be attained by not only processing what they can tell you, but also by what they
- 1) The Office Of Denominational Executive Is More Overwhelming
Than They Ever Realized.
- Just underneath the thin facade of the "glory" of the office is a profound,
overwhelming mass of responsibilities. Certainly every ministry has such great
responsibilities. At the denominational executive level, not only are the decisions
bigger, but the responsibilities and possible repercussions are also more far-reaching.
- 2) Being A Denominational Executive Is A Very Thankless Calling.
- Everyone enjoys a pat on the back once in a while. Unfortunately, the higher the level
of leadership responsibility, the less thanks and support one receives.
executives often exert exhausting energies trying to take care of things behind the
scenes, often beyond the call of duty, to ensure that things go well. Since there is often
no one there to give recognition--and in some cases, recognition can't be given because of
the nature of the situation--the only reward they get is knowing that what they did will
give some relief to averting a worse scenario.
- 3) They Are Overwhelmed With Conflict.
- Though they know it must be dealt with, denominational executives hate conflict.
Everywhere they look it seems as if there's another battle to fight, another conflict to
settle, another dispute to arbitrate, and another fire to put out, another talk with a
lawyer to avoid law suits...and that's just the ones that involve disputes regarding the
- Add to that the battles, conflicts, disputes, fires and explosions
coming from congregational infighting...and the pastoral conflicts with which they must
deal. It's an everyday occurrence which grinds on and on and on...without end.
- 4) Pastoral Placement Is Frustrating.
- There is no one more interested in placing the right pastor in the right parish than the
Denominational executive. If the right person is in the right place, potential for
conflict which will involve the denominational executive is minimized. Unfortunately,
denominational executives do not have a crystal ball to determine exactly how pastors and
congregations will act.
- Given the tools or opportunity to develop personnel procedures to
help make better congregation-pastor match-ups, many denominational executives would
probably say they would be interested...if they had the time. As important as pastoral
placement is, it is one of many, many important responsibilities which must be squeezed in
to an already impossibly frantic schedule.
- 5) Good Leaders Are Hard To Find.
- Every organization requires good leaders. They better they are, the harder they are to
find. Filling leadership positions--especially volunteer positions--are hard to fill.
Sure, there's always the over-zealous antagonistic self-important lay person who always
seems to be "right there" to fill the next key vacancy.
- Then there's the ones
who do nothing but, because they enjoy the status of being on a denominational board,
never leave. Then there's those who are trusted with information and responsibility and
then betray the denominational executives office by misuse and abuse this information. The
"clean up" is never easy and always takes much valuable time and
effort to restore order...and trust.
- 6) The Thing Denominational Executives Want Most Is Your Trust.
- Whether their decision is right or wrong, denominational leaders cannot do their best
without the trust of those they lead. Unfortunately so many give trust to denominational
executives on an "all or nothing" basis. If the denominational executive makes
one mistake, they are disrespected and gossiped about in church circles...instead of being
approached directly the way pastors and others would like.
- Among others things, trust entails an understanding which is based on good
communication, ready-to-offer forgiveness, and a willingness to work together in a humble,
cooperative manner to achieve God-pleasing denominational objectives. Denominational executives yearn for, pray for
and appreciate such people. Unfortunately, they are too few are far-between.
- 7) It Is Lonelier Than You Can Imagine At The Top.
- Denominational executives and their families are often severely strained by the
pressures of the office. Long hours, constant travel, extended time away from family, an
inability to have access to social situations in which they can make true friends are but
some of the things which make it lonely at the top. Add to that the constant pressure,
tension and heartaches of ministry and the stress of having to "make the tough
call" in many difficult situations and the result is not pretty.
- There really
is no complete "getting away" from it all. Wherever you go, whatever you do, the
office goes with you whether you like it or not. This constant pressure eats away at
relationships and ones desire and capacity to have the energy needed to even maintain the
few significant relationships one has.
- 8) They Secretly Long To Be In Parish Ministry.
- Denominational executives often become overseers because of their ability to deal with
people. Over the years they have enjoyed robust congregational ministry. They have enjoyed
and developed close relationships with people.
- Their pastoral ministries have involved
them in the lives of individuals and families. They have enjoyed the regular contact with
people. They made calls, they taught new converts, and they watched God's Word change the
lives of real people as they preached to the same congregation each week...their
- There's hardly an denominational executive who has not shed deep tears of longing as
they reflect on what they had in congregational ministry and how they miss it so very,
very much. One denominational executive, having founded a congregation and led it through
decades of remarkable growth, was asked how he liked it in his new position. With tears in
his eyes, he said,
- "I never appreciated, during all those years, just how close I was to the people of
the congregation. I also never could have imagined just how lonely it would be to leave
them and become a denominational executive...I miss being with the people so very, very
- 9) They Are Sick Of "Butt-Kissing Wanna-Be's."
- There's a certain security of being able to work around people who are content with
themselves, their calling, and their responsibilities. Unfortunately, too many
denominational executives experience environments overwhelmed with (pardon
my "French") "Butt-Kissing Wanna-Be's."
Such individuals are invariably passive-aggressive, not content with themselves, not happy
with others and though apparently enthusiastic about their responsibilities, really want
more. They want position, recognition and power and will often back-stab or manipulate,
albeit covertly, to get it.
- Usually denominational execs know who these people are...but
they, too, can be surprised. It is this element of "surprise" which often causes
denominational executives to take the "safe" position of not delegating to
others things which might well be delegated.
- 10) They're Not Doing This For The Money.
- Though they generally receive higher levels of compensation than those in congregational
ministry, the financial compensation is not commensurate for the effort required.
Equivalent positions in corporations have far more generous benefits, compensation
packages, and retirement programs.
- 11) Intervening In Congregational Conflict Is Uncertain At Best.
- So often denominational executives, when called to intervene in pastor/congregation
conflict, may not become as involved in the situation as either party may hope. This is
not necessarily because the denominational executive is unwilling or incompetent to deal
with the situation.
- Instead, denominational executives recognize that more often than not
the hurt caused to pastors and congregations is greater when intervention is tried than
when it is not.
- Since many congregations and pastors have limited capacities to change, even if an
agreement were worked out the potential for sequential, multiple conflicts would still
remain. This limitation is often the guiding force in recommending to pastors that they
leave a conflicted congregation.
- 12) The "Call" To Remain In A Local Congregation May Not Be Worth
- In many denominations the "call" to a local congregation includes an
open-ended guarantee of "tenure." This call often states something to the effect
that the pastor, barring Scriptural cause for removal, has the right, authority and
unconditional support of the congregation to remain in that congregation until such time
God moves the pastor.
- However this "guaranteed" tenure is often challenged. Pastors, properly
believing that they have the legal right to exercise and fully defend their call, often
get badly beaten up in the process. Depression, anger, frustration, brokenness,
questioning, spiritual doubt, and the thoughts of leaving the ministry are but some of the
consequences of the faithful pastors' noble defense.
- It can take years for pastors to
recover from these dynamics...and longer for their families. The bottom line question
denominational executives ask is, "Is it worth it to put someone through
- Often their answer is "No." If one has thirty years of ministry to offer is it
worth keeping them in a conflict which will not only possibly shorten their ministry, but
their life span? Is it in the pastor's best interest to "fight it out" and spend
five years of ministry trying to recover from the devastation? Wouldn't those five years
be better spent in a more vigorous, supportive and fruitful ministry?
- 13) Disciplining Congregations Is Hazardous, Uncomfortable And Unfruitful.
- In the long-run congregations tend to follow the laws of physics. Things in motion tend
to stay in motion; things not in motion tend not to move at all. Healthy congregations
may continue to be healthy over the long haul; unhealthy ones may continue to be
unhealthy even with skillful intervention.
- For this and other reasons, many denominational executives may simply avoid disciplining
congregations. Not only will it not do any good; but the harm created might be worst than
the current presenting issues and merely exacerbate an already bad situation.
Denominational execs will often ask, "Why make it worse than it already is?"
"Who needs more trouble on their hands?" "Not me!" is often the
- 14) I Have Dark Days, Too.
- Virtually every triumph and failure is publicized. Unfortunately, bad news always seems
to get more publicity. When denominational execs find themselves in a "bad news"
scenario, it can be very, very lonely. The days, no matter how bright they might seem to
others, can be woefully dark. Sometimes they wonder if God is really there or not.
patient to wait for God's strength and insight is also tiring. Not having people to talk
too only makes it more lonely...and dark. But regardless of how they feel, it's difficult
for them to have people to whom they can cry out for help, support and encouragement.
- 15) I Like Appreciation.
- Denominational Execs are people too. They want to feel needed, wanted and valuable. They
want a sense of belonging. It doesn't take much...just a friendly phone call, a note, an
email, or shaking hands the denominational exec's with a genuine, friendly smile of
appreciation goes a long way to encourage them in their work. Like small import cars, they
get excellent "gas" mileage on a compliment. Every "drop" of
appreciation can keep them going for hundreds of ministry "miles."
- 16) Don't Whine.
- Denominational Execs, as others, are often willing to hear what you have to say. But
don't whine. After all, they don't whine to you, do they? Of course, like you, virtually
every DE needs someone confidential to whine to sometime. But finding confidential,
trusted individuals to whom they can pour their soul is painfully difficult.
- 17) Deal With Your Own Problems.
- Though they want to be able to provide resources for the unexpected crises and
overwhelming ministry situations, denominational executives do not want to deal with your
day-to-day problems for you.
- Grow up! Handle those yourself. Pastors who cannot handle their own day-to-day, run of
the mill "ordinary" problems in their own congregations either a) need help from
a counselor, b) need a new congregation, or c) should not be in the ministry.
- 18) Don't Be So Eager To Withhold Denominational Support!
- So often pastors and/or congregations will withhold their support of the denominational
because of one issue or disagreement with a denominational exec. Sometimes people make
- Other times, people don't know the whole story. Whatever the reasons,
withholding denominational support is more a reflection on those withholding it than those
who would receive it. Threatening actions such as withholding seldom only hurt the one
against whom the retaliation is directed.
- Withholding support from the
denomination is ultimately an act of congregational self-sabotage. Their reduced support
means they will have fewer resources available to assist them in times of need.
- 19) Don't Play Games. Level With Me.
- Denominational executives need good information from trusted brothers and sisters in
ministry. They need this information not just to survive, but to make good decisions.
- Unfortunately what is confidential may not be disclosed. For this reason you may not have
all the information. When leveling with the denominational executive they will ask and
assume that you can be trusted with the information given and to give them
as they will support you.
- 20) Recognize I Can't Meet Everyone's Expectations.
- Though a DE will do everything possible to reasonably meet expectations, many other
factors often make meeting expectations an impossible task. Often the
expectations conflict with each other. Sometimes the sheer complexity of the expectations
at hand make it unrealistic or impossible to fulfill. Sometimes there just aren't enough
resources or political support to implement what might be necessary to realize the
fulfillment of these expectations.
- Everyone with these kinds of expectations must be prepared to feel let
down from time to time. Indeed, any listing of DE's expectations will
probably be characterized by
a greater number of frustrated expectations than fulfilled ones.
- 21) It's Hard To Find People Who Can Be Totally Confidential.
- A DE often has trouble maintaining their own confidential support network. It makes for
a very lonely ministry. Whenever confidentiality is broken, the DE knows that the
consequences can be far-reaching. It is this fear which can make it
difficult for DE's to talk, trust and share openly with pastors and
- 22) I'm Overloaded. There Are Just Too Many Bases To Cover.
- Given the way in which church-related organizations are regularly under resourced with
finance, a DE may well be trying to cover too many bases in a way which would not be
tolerated in a secular well heeled operation. The additional ministry pressure simply adds
even greater burdens and potential for burnout in an position characterized
by some very high stress levels.
- 23) I Have Too Few Real Friends.
- A DE often has few close friends. Time (or lack of it) is one reason; the nature of the
task is another. The constant travel and demands to be in multiple places at once while
being immediately available for everyone's schedule results not only in an almost complete
vacuum of close, intimate friends but a vacuum of closeness and support with their
- It is this challenge of building and maintaining trust relationships which
perhaps most frequently and profoundly "haunts" the daily life of DE's.
It is this aspect of daily life which may be the DE's catalyst for
burnout...or a deepened connection with God.
- 24) I'm A Very Frustrated Change Agent.
- DE's many dreams and visions for what God can do in the denomination. Given the unique
vantage point a DE enjoys, these dreams and visions can be quite vivid. Unfortunately, it
is difficult to be a change agent in at various denominational levels and among
congregations and church leaders who simply do not want to change.
- 25) Don't Expect Me To Get It Right Every Time.
- Like everyone else, DE's are sinners too. Their actions can be
hindered, changed, challenged, sabotaged, misunderstood and undermined in many ways and
for virtually any reason--rational or irrational.
- Perhaps most frustrating are those times
when DE's are not given all the information which a situation requires. Of course, there
are some things which DE's probably wished they did not know. Sometimes
ignorance is bliss for DE's even as it is for pastors.
- 26) This Ministry Can Seriously Affect My Health.
- The work load of a DE can produce prolonged weariness and stress of a kind which can
seriously affect health and even limit longevity itself. Additionally, the nature of the
work often requires a DE to carry some loads which, by their nature, cannot be easily
- This load is further burdened by the difficult necessity to balance the DE's various
roles: supervisor, pastor, caregiver of congregations, and overseer of their called and
enlisted professional servants. Keeping these roles in balance without
losing one's self is a difficult tightrope to walk. It is a daily challenge.
- 27) Dealing With The Sins Of Others Is No Fun.
- Church discipline is
never any "easy" task. It involves loving, but confrontation. Such is difficult
enough in local congregations. It is much more difficult--and serious--when those who must
be disciplined are the called servants of God. It is especially difficult because of the
enormous ramifications of any disciplinary action to the individuals involved, the
respective congregation, and ultimately all those affected in the denomination.
- Especially frustrating is dealing with third-party complainants who tattle on others
rather than lovingly confronting them. Such individuals, even when confronted, almost
always respond to the DE's intervention by making the DE the focus of their expanded
tattling. If disputing parties would simply remember that Jesus' guidelines
for church discipline are sandwiched between His two teachings regarding
forgiveness the job of a DE would be much easier.
- 28) It's Hard To Keep The Focus On The New Testament Vision Of
Outreach That Is Based On The Word Of God And Prayer.
- There are so many, many things that obscure this
vision. Sometimes DE's get pressured to focus so much on the institutional needs of the
denomination (ecclesiastical structure, resolutions, policies, etc.) that they become
frustrated in their desire to represent Christ and His vision for the church.
- Sometimes it is the sense of their own powerlessness to uphold the enormous profundity of
this vision which drives them to depend on God's Word. Sometimes this
powerlessness leads them to pray in ways even they never
- As important as it is trying to continually center one's devotional
and worship life in Christ and His Word while experiencing a whirlwind schedule is
sometimes a virtual impossibility. Even when accomplished, it is virtually always an
enormous source of spiritual frustration..
- 29) A DE May Have To Tell You Something You Don't Want To Hear -
especially if it has to do with the way you are exercising your ministry. A DE will
want to break it to you gently so give them a chance. Don't shoot the messenger.
Listen to the message with love and prayerful and humbly reflect on the
message...regardless of how painful it may be.
- The Most Important Thing They Won't Tell You Is...
- 30) Remember The Golden Rule.
- As one looks over the listing above, perhaps the thing that is most striking is that
these items are also things that most pastors won't tell their
denominational execs, either. Isn't it interesting how both ministries seem
to share so much yet so often lack the mutual support needed to effectively
carry out Christ's mission?
"Do unto others as you would have them do to you" applies to ourselves, our
ministry, and our neighbor, ought it not apply even more prominently in dealings with
our denominational executives?
- The author of Hebrews wrote,
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit
yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may
do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Pray for us:
for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly."
Hebrews 13:17-18 (KJV)
This is what every pastor expects of their flock. If one follows the
Golden Rule, ought we not exercise it foremost and primarily with our
denominational overseers, too? Even
if they don't, won't or can't tell you, give them what you want most: the benefit of the
Golden Rule. It may not only encourage their ministry...it may encourage yours, too!
- Thomas F. Fischer
- *For Part II of this article see "Things
Your Denominational Executive Would Love To Tell You" Ministry
Health article 344
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
Copyright © 1997-2004 Ministry
Health, LLC All Rights Reserved.
FrontPage and Microsoft Internet Explorer are registered trademarks of
Adobe Acrobat and PDF are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems
Hosted and Developed by SAMSA
was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:19 PM