Thrown under the (church) bus

Every leadership book, guru, seminar or teaching will tell you that part of leadership is taking responsibility, being accountable and – whether justified or not – taking the blame.  John Maxwell states in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership that “everything rises and falls on leadership.”  This is seen in every leadership structure whether in the military, the workplace, sports or church ministry.  When the quarterback throws an interception, he blames himself and not the receiver or his linemen.  When he throws a touchdown, he never praises himself.  He praises his teammates.

Too often, I’ve seen church leaders not follow this model and instead, blame everyone but themselves.  I’ve seen staff criticize the Senior Pastor to other staff or volunteers.  I’ve worked with several Senior Pastors that expect everyone else to make the services and programs happen despite their poor planning or last minute impossible instructions.  When the issue is brought up, these pastors usually blame the Holy Spirit’s last minute inspiration (because the Holy Spirit is not capable of planning ahead?) or question  the volunteers’ servant hearts and suggest that people need to be more flexible.

On the flip side, there are far too many pastors who are working their hardest and not receiving the support they need from their staff, congregation and board members.  That will  be the subject of a future post, as many pastors are burnt out and frustrated.  We need to lift up and support our leaders.  This post, however, is directed at the types of leaders that pass the blame onto others and don’t set the example in their leadership.


I was volunteering for one church that didn’t plan ahead very well, and often had last minute changes for the volunteers late Saturday night or Sunday morning.  I approached a pastor about the problem and how it made the volunteers stressed to have to put things together last minute.  His solution?  He told me that I can reach out throughout the week and ask if there are any changes or anything I should know to prepare for the service.  The staff that work at the church full-time were not taking the time to call, email or even text information.  His response to a volunteer –working a full-time job and dedicating 3 services a Sunday and each Wed night– was that it was my responsibility to chase down the staff for information.  That was a common response to problems there:  it was never the church’s fault, it must be everyone else.

Church leaders need to look in the mirror at their organizational skills, learn to plan ahead and communicate with staff and volunteers.  The pastors’ role is to equip people to do the work of the ministry.  They should be humble, respect and appreciate the people who make the ministry happen.  Leaders need to hear feedback and suggestions and make sure they are doing what they need to equip and prepare their people.

Soldiers going into battle will fight and die for a leader they believe in.   A team will look at a quarterback in the huddle who they trust and never throws them under the bus and will go out and fight for him.  And those serving in a church who feel appreciated, who have problems and concerns met with a proper response, who are equipped and trained and mentored will serve faithfully and feel a satisfaction from serving.

Leaders:  as you look in the mirror, are you doing your best to equip your people to do the work of the ministry?


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About Scott Phillips

"I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20 View all posts by Scott Phillips

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