Pastor or Boss? When to Change Hats?


Any Pastor can attest to the fact that they will be called upon to fulfill numerous roles and wear numerous hats.  Knowing when to wear certain hats can become a challenge.  Pastors at times have two hats,  the pastor hat and the boss hat.  Wearing the wrong hat at the wrong time can be detrimental.  Is this a boss issue? or a pastor issue?  Which hat needs to be worn?  This becomes extremely important because there are different approaches used by each “hat”.

For example, if a staff member is dealing with some family issues that are affecting their performance and attendance, a pastoral approach would be to give understanding and flexibility through the situation.  But clearly,  responding to this boss issue with the pastor hat would avoid the needed direct response and ultimately lead to a poor outcome.  As a pastor I have held on to staff members who were not meeting expectations,  simply because I was concerned about their family and how they would fare after being let go.  The church, the organization is affected when we wear the wrong hat.

Here are 4 Ways to Know When to Put the Boss Hat On:

1.  Expectations are not being met – We’ve all been there. We expect an employee to complete a task only to learn that it wasn’t done. We discover that it wasn’t done and are not sure how to respond.

Times like this can be very frustrating, especially, when we think the expectations were made clear and everyone was on the same page. For example, an action item on the facility review committee was to plan a volunteer campus cleanup day.

The item was due to be completed by the end of June and here it is the beginning of August and it has not been done yet.

In these types of situations we may have the tendency to give a little grace because the delay may have been justified, but it is important to put the boss hat on and confront the person responsible for completing the task.

Managing the performance of employees and volunteers is critical to achieving the mission of the organization.

2. Numbers are Going in the Wrong Direction

Every organization should identify those things that determine its success. In other words, asking the question – how do we measure our success?

This is done by identifying and tracking critical success factors (CSF) so you know if you are hitting the mark or not.

For example, a CSF may be the number of people volunteering, the number of members connected in small groups or the average weekly attendance.

If one of these factors is declining, it may be time to put on the boss hat and ask the hard questions. This means confronting the issue and determining the real (not perceived) reason for the decline.

It may also require asking for feedback from members, volunteers or employees. Asking the question can begin the process of understanding the issues and working toward turning those numbers around.

3. When Conflict Arises – Let’s face it, no one likes conflict. When conflict arises in the church, leadership needs to take quick action to get it resolved. There is a theory in conflict management that suggests, the longer a conflict goes unresolved the more difficult it becomes to manage and turn around. Unresolved conflict in church results in misunderstandings, hurt feelings and unfortunately people leaving.

So whether the conflict is an issue between two employees, a church member challenging church policy or a volunteer acting inappropriately – these types of issues need to be addressed directly and quickly. Church leaders often have the distorted notion that addressing conflict is un-Christlike. The fact is, the opposite is true.

4. When Someone Needs to Make the Tough Call – Anyone in a leadership role has experienced a time when a tough call had to be made. It is in those times that we need to put on the boss hat. It may be a decision to change the leadership in a certain role or perhaps deciding to let a church employee go or it could be a decision to make some cuts in spending so funds can be diverted to something that better supports the mission. Each of these examples impacts people and these types of decisions are difficult to make. Putting on the boss hat and making the tough call, with the love and care of a pastor’s heart, is the best way to reach a positive outcome.

Resolving conflict and managing people can be very difficult, but if done effectively can be very rewarding. Knowing when to be the pastor and when to be the boss can be the perfect balance in moving employees, volunteers and members into their perfect place and to ultimately help fulfill the mission of the church.



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