Have you ever driven a car that had its tires out of alignment? You might not know it at first, but before long, you find yourself constantly fighting to keep the car on the road. It wears you out and causes tension in your neck and shoulders as your hands keep a constant pressure on the steering wheel. And, all the while, your car is being damaged.
That’s exactly what happens when you have a volunteer or staff member in your church staff who is out of alignment with the direction of the vision of your church.
In chapter 51 of my book Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace, I discuss the three types of alignment you will see in your church.
1. Same Direction
This is when everyone is heading in the right direction. There is peace and harmony on your team. Your church is clear in its direction and all staff members, volunteers, and programs are headed toward that clear direction. When everyone is headed in the same direction, churches spend more time talking about how to reach people rather than about the specifics of the church constitution or people’s likes and dislikes of methods.
2. Polar Opposite
Sometimes you will find that someone or something in your church is headed in the exact opposite direction of your church’s vision. It is obvious to everyone. It’s not a major deal though, because the individual is so far off that no one is being influenced. In this case, it likely means having a tough conversation with the individual, but it won’t be hard to convince him that he is not headed in the same direction. In this case, no one else on the team will question your decision because everyone knows this individual is out of sync with the church.
Sometimes this is not just one individual but a ministry or a program that might have been a great idea in the beginning but is no longer a good use of the church’s resources. While it might be a tough conversation, it will be worth the overall health of your church to cut the program before you continue wasting time, money, and energy on running something that is going against your church’s purpose.
3. Just A Little Off
The third type of misalignment is very dangerous. If unaddressed, it can destroy the unity of a church and sometimes split it apart. The misaligned individual is just slightly off. She isn’t advocating doctrines that are diametrically opposed to the church’s statement of faith. She doesn’t want to take the church in an entirely different direction. She just wants the leadership to move a few degrees. You’ve listened, asked clarifying questions, and heard her concerns. Even though you have restated the mission and vision, she continues to question methods, principles, values, staff motives, and decisions.
The misaligned individual never seems happy or satisfied, and you’ve never done quite enough to please her. Many times you don’t even realize how much damage has been done until the person has been asked to leave. Then, suddenly the joy returns, and volunteers who have quit because of the toxic environment will come back and begin serving again.
As a leader, ask yourself, “Is there an individual or ministry or program that comes to mind as I’m reading about misalignment? What must I do to address it?”
You might even ask, “Am I the crooked arrow who is causing misalignment in my church? Is God prompting me to move someplace new?”
Misalignment rarely goes away. You will need to address it head-on. Yes, do it with grace, asking questions and seeking to understand. But once the talking is done, ask for support or encourage him or her to find another place to serve or work.