Not long ago, I was having coffee during a mentoring session with a young pastor. He told me that he had just been appointed the youth pastor of the church he was now in, when a few weeks later the senior pastor had been dismissed for moral transgressions. The Young Youth pastor was then appointed by the elders as senior pastor.

The young man told me that the fallout from this crisis was rumbling on in the background and every time he suggested something it got harder and harder for him to control: The ex senior leaders wife wanted her son to take over the church, after all she and he ex husband had planted the church. One of the elders felt that the young pastor wasn’t being firm enough with the wife and son of the ex pastor. The young pastor felt that congregation members were talking behind his back and he also felt that he was not getting enough support from the head office of the denomination he was part of.

From his manner I could see that the young pastor was floundering so I offered a number of suggestions that I thought would help him and also help him think more clearly;

1.      Separate the perceived threats from the real ones. The worst thing that could happen would be that the ex pastors wife could leave along with her son. Remember you were not appointed by her but by the elders or leadership of the church.

2.      Ambiguity is a source of anxiety and needs to be reduced. Get clarification from head office as to what they have done and what they are doing to help you through this crisis. Using this information make a plan. Then approach all your elders and find out what they are thinking. Leaders can reduce uncertainty by clarifying what changes are in scope. In other words a clear understanding of your point of view will be made, using your information from head office and listening to the wisdom coming from the elders.

3.      Inspire confidence by being calm in your decision making and presentation. Armed with your agreed plan it is now time to bring it to the congregation. At the start of the service invite your congregation to remain behind after the service as you have an important statement to make. Immediately after the closing prayer invite people to remain seated. Once everyone is settled bring an outline of what has happened and what has been done to date, inform the congregation what you and the elders are doing and what you will be doing going forward. Invite people to ask question after the service over coffee, invite your elders to stand with you so that you are not the only one being questioned.

This tale does not have a happy ending. The young pastor did not do what I had suggested. The problems brought about by the crisis bubbled on for months, it was the centre of every conversation and every decision. The young pastor could not move forward, eventually he left the church and is now a long distance truck driver. Most of the elders and their families left the church and the wife and son of the disgraced pastor now run the church.

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