Who Owns a Church, Part 4

Now, at this point the title of the series doesn’t exactly match, but since it’s a series I want to run with it.

Regardless of who is supposed to make decisions or what group of people are given the responsibility for finalizing those decisions, something has to be said about HOW that group should function as they make those decisions. The role the group plays and the criteria that they use for making decisions will greatly affect the entire congregation.

In Hotchkiss’ article, he says that a majority of board members feel it is there job to act as a representative or as a fiduciary for the congregation. The representative part is similar to other elections where candidates arise and are voted by popular vote to either serve or not to serve. There is some hint of that in our elder selection processes, but not a great deal of campaigning. As a fiduciary, the board is expected to on behalf of another person to protect the interests of the owner. This can be troublesome for us because it gets us back into our question on who’s interests, as the owner, should the fiduciary act upon.

This point of the discussion becomes somewhat labored because we have to start to differentiate between what should happen and what actually does happen. I can understand the desire to make people happy, especially when they are not. When decision makers make that their primary goal they switch over into representative mode and start to seek the interests of their “constituents”. If this become the core principle for leadership, they quickly become fiduciaries of the members of the church.

There are a couple issues that surface when leader’s act as though they are making decisions on behalf of the members that are not good systemically. I’ve got one in mind I’ll share tomorrow, but I want to see what kind of benefits or weaknesses you have observed from a leadership that decides issues based on what the members (including themselves) want in the church.

One Response to Who Owns a Church, Part 4

  1. z-man says:

    You’re referring to the age-old debate about representation: delegate vs. trustee. A delegate represents the expressed interests of his or her constituents, which may or may not be for the good of the whole. A trustee, on the other hand, represents the best interests of the whole, at least how he or she understands them, which may go against the interests of his or her constituency.

    In a political context, both the delegate and the trustee conception of representation place competing and contradictory demands on the behavior of representatives. I would think the same applies in leadership situations.

    There are times when I entrust leaders to make decisions based on their best judgment based on the information they have, which may not necessarily favor my particular interests. There are other times where it is most important for a leader to make a decision based on the expressed desires – interests – of those whom he/she leads.

    Of course the big question then arises: how does a leader know when he or she is in which situation and thus, which approach is best in making a decision?

    Guess that’s why they’re leaders. Best thing I can do is appreciate the fact that they’re not going to make the right decision every time, and certainly not always a decision I agree with or would have made.

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