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Does your congregation play “church politics”? part 2

In part 1 of this series on church politics (which we started before the holidays), we examined the types of politics and the possible areas that they can affect in your church.

Quite frankly, church politics are nearly unavoidable.

No matter what denomination you belong to, no matter how big or small your church membership is, if you are trying to start something new, you will encounter some form of church politics.

Even if everyone involved agrees that your new idea is fantastic, you’ll have to “reach out” to certain people to get things done.

Likewise, even if you can get around the financial and structural parts of your idea coming into conflict with your church boards and congregation, you are bound to “rub someone the wrong way” if they are not included along the way.

Now that we’ve examined the types of politics and the possible areas that they can affect in your church, let’s examine other key players of church politics and the way they may impact your church.

As we cited in part one, Dr. Dan Reiland, a writer for The Pneuma, informed us about the various areas that church politics can take hold.

In short, everywhere and in every facet of your church –

“Today, "Church Politics" has taken on a more contemporary definition, pertaining specifically to the local church. It's a sad truth, don't you think, that whatever the definition, we instinctively grasp the meaning of the term. And it's easy to make a list of potential places such politics can take root:

  • Decisions made at Church board meetings
  • Who's on the Church board
  • Annual Business Meetings
  • Worship style
  • The Pastor's resignation
  • A Pastor's hiring
  • Staff feuds
  • Building programs
  • Church Budgets
  • I'm sure you could double the length of this list including things right down to who gets what room for a Sunday School class!

Understand the origin of politics. Politics is agenda driven. Somebody wants something. The major complication is that the issues at the core (personal and selfish desires), get communicated as if they are the cause of Christ. This is not new. Holy Wars have been fought with the same dynamics in play.” (Dan Reiland,

Let’s choose a few items from Dr. Reiland’s list above and look at how people affect these areas.

  • Decisions made at Church board meetings

If your church uses Robert Rules Of Order as a basic format for most church meetings, then you know that to be voted on, an agenda item must have a motion offered (request for acceptance or rejection of the topic or item) and must be seconded (another person must also agree with the motion). The item or topic must go to “question” and then either questions are asked or the vote is put on the floor

If a particular person, who has their own agenda, offers the motion and a close friend seconds it, you can see that church politics has just manipulated the situation and possibly, the vote.

Let’s say that the motion offered was for hiring a contractor to do repairs for your church. The friend of a member is a contractor and since both are members, the friend offers a motion that the church uses someone already in the church rather than looking outside for bids.

If the motion carries, then the contractor wins the bid without ever having to actually bid on the contract. As a way of “returning the favor”, he hires his friend to “help him”.

In the end, they both get paid for a job voted on in the business meeting. This is just one hypothetical example of how church politics can influence things.

  • Who's on the Church board

Here’s a hot topic directly related to church politics. Ever wonder how certain people got to be deacons or trustees in your church especially when they seem to be the least likely person for the task?

The answer could be politics because in many churches, even in my own local congregation, people are “placed” in offices or positions, not because of how spiritual they are, but because of who they are or what they have.

If your church is over 75 years old and there is a large family based in it, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone in that family is a deacon or trustee.

Whether that person lives up to those expectations or not, they were probably put there because of their family’s status.

And let’s not leave out the power of the mighty dollar.

Often, the richest family or the biggest contributors will “find” their way to the deacon or trustee board, or maybe even the pulpit itself.

  • Church Budgets

Believe it or not, whether your auxiliary gets a big budget, a little budget, or no budget at all, could depend simply on who is in it, not what is in it.

For example, a husband and wife team at our church wanted to start a drama ministry in which a cast of our own members would act out Bible stories based on holidays like Christmas.

At first the couple was told that they would have no budget assigned from the church’s joint board (deacons and trustees) because the church was already over budgeted for the year.

When two deacons and a trustee were asked to be a part of the ministry because of their talents, suddenly a reasonable budget was given to the ministry, even though the couple didn’t go politicking for any money.

Keep in mind that many, perhaps most, churches have some form of politics involved in decision making.

When you are trying to do something new or innovative at church, here are just a few signs that politics are at work.

When other congregants or the pastor tells you –

  • “Oh, that’s just the way we do things around here”
  • “Speak with Sister so and so, she usually handles that”
  • “Don’t pay them any mind, that’s just the way they are”
  • “We’ve always done it that way”
  • “You don’t want to get on Brother so and so’s bad side”
  • “You should really ask Sister so and so to be on your committee; she’d be a big help”

These are just a few hypothetical sayings that you may get or you may just get the big run around.

Either way, church politics can cause a big headache for you, though you only have the best of intentions.

In part 3, we’ll look at how politics can lead to either frustration or conformity. We’ll especially look at how this affects the pastor.

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