5 Ways to Identify Church Politics from Strategy

Organizations find direction from either strategy or politics.  Each is the enemy of the other.  A church with strategy ensures that all programs and events work seamlessly together to move it toward a clear vision.  A church that lacks strategic direction leaves team members no choice but to set their own individual objectives.  This mix of uncoordinated objectives exists within an organization with limited resources, creating a competitive market where political behavior is the only means of success.
So is your church staff operating by politics or strategy? ¬†These five differences will help you decide…

1. Politics produce inconsistent answers.  Strategy answers questions before they are asked.

A church run by politics will regularly vary its course.  Each decision is made in isolation, giving no consideration to those in the past or future.  Recognizing this inconsistency, team members see each of these decisions as an opportunity for persuasion and personal gain.  Strategic teams, however, already know the answers to many questions before they arise.  Each decision is seen as another opportunity to take a step along the path toward vision.
Are team members regularly left wondering what you will decide in a given situation?

2. Politics please the right people.  Strategy guides people in the right direction.

Within politics, who you are and who you know are often more important than what you know.  Team members are given influence based on history and networks.  Strategy breaks through these relational webs and provides a clear path for everyone to follow, regardless of their network.  With a focused direction, leaders make decisions for the sake of purpose, not pleasing.
Do you ever find yourself considering individual backgrounds and spheres of influence when making decisions?

3. Politics divide individuals. Strategy unites teams.

A culture of teamwork cannot be expected in an organization operating by political behavior.  Individuals see competition as the only means of achieving personal objectives.  Any shared resource including finances, calendar dates, and promotions become regular topics of debate.  Strategy replaces personal objectives with a new set shared throughout the organization.  Team members have a reason to work for the good of other departments beyond their own.  The incentive for selfish behavior is removed as everyone recognizes their role in a greater purpose.
Are team members regularly competing for shared resources?

4.  Politics fosters ego.  Strategy fosters sacrifice.

A competitive environment encourages the development of egos.  Each time an individual accomplishes a personal objective, he or she develops a greater sense of personal pride.  Strategy removes ego-encouragement by removing competition.  As team members are given a role in the pursuit of a greater purpose, they begin letting go of the need for individual accomplishments in order to serve one another.  Sacrifice, not ego, is recognized and rewarded on a team run by strategy.
Are team members willing to sacrifice personal objectives for organizational progress?

5. Politics create complexity.  Strategy creates simplicity.

When team members pursue individual objectives, a variety of unrelated programs quickly develops.  Often these programs are personally attached to their founders, making them all the more difficult to eliminate.  Strategy works against complexity, providing a filter for every activity.  Rather than attaching programs to personalities, strategic leaders work to attach programs to one another, creating a pathway of next steps for growing disciples.
Can everyone in the church identify a clear pathway for discipleship?
I have met very few church staff members who desired a political environment.  I have, however, met many who felt they had no choice but to engage in one.  Without clear direction, they were forced to default to individual objectives.  The only way to eliminate politics is to replace it with strategy.  Make sure everyone understands their role in the pursuit of clear vision.
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Ryan Stigile