Improving Your Multi-Staff Ministry by Anne Marie Nuechterlein

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Book and Article Reviews, Pastoral Ministry
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2. What are the steps to making a covenant?  Does Nuechterlein differ in any way from Cladis or Messer on this issue?  If so, how?

            The steps for making a covenant are: believe in the hope and forgiveness of Christ; remember we are holy; listen to each other; discuss individual and group expectations; discuss and set common goals; interact intentionally with each other; and promote honest and open communication.

Messer focuses his discussion of covenant on the fact that it relies on the understanding that we are all sinners, yet we are formed into the One Body of Christ that is called to be unified by the Spirit for ministry.

Cladis’ understanding of covenant is explicated further in his book, Leading the Team-Based Church.  First, a covenant is based upon the perichoretic life of God, whom covenants with His people.  Therefore, we covenant with each other as people forgiven by the grace of God, working together to minister to a broken world.  Cladis process for covenanting is: obtain team leader commitment to the covenant; allow sufficient time; offer honesty and self-disclosure; acknowledge sin; be specific; review often; orient new team members; distribute widely; and be gracious.  Although Nuechterlein and Cladis are similar in their approaches, there are a few distinguishing differences.

3. According to Nuechterlein how do Senior Pastors value their staff?

            Although interpersonal relationships might be important, according to Nuechterlein, pastors value staff based on their competence, complementary skills, and trust.  A variety of skills, professionalism, and responsibility are the most important aspects of a ministerial staff for the senior pastor.

4.  What was the “conflict style” of your family of origin?  How does your style compare to the pastoral staff you serve on?

The conflict style in my family was primarily closed.  The largest majority of our pastoral staff has a “closed” conflict style.  There are a couple of individuals that have more “open” means of communicating conflict.  My style is consistent with the largest number of staff members with whom I work.

5.  What was your “family role” in your family of origin?

            I was the oldest of two children.  I have a younger sister.  As such, I was expected to be a leader, protector, and responsible.  I was also supposed to be punctual, perfect, successful, hardworking, and always the best.  Obedience was expected in everything.  One must be able to follow directions, be polite, and be confident.  As a result, being a leader also meant be able to follow directions and taking responsibility for failures.  Sometimes that meant taking the responsibility for failure to protect others for whom I felt responsible as their leader.

6.  What is your birth order and how does it affect your view of a healthy staff?

As mentioned earlier, I am the oldest child in my family.  My view of a healthy staff is that everyone collaborates together and shares power, takes responsibility for their areas of ministry, and is competent.  In my mind, staff should be close to one another and interact with each other more than where ministry is concerned.  It is important that we are able to develop relationships together.

That does not diminish the fact that we all have our own roles.  I think it is important that each staff member is shown to be trustworthy in their areas of responsibility.  There should be a sense of unity among the staff, working together toward a common goal.  Conflict should be communicated in a loving, non-threatening way.  Although we may have areas we are accountable for, each of us has something to offer in the development of the local church.

2. Give me your overall impression of the book.  Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?

            I would recommend it for an overall review of the material covered concerning pastoral ministry.  It came from a much more psycho-social perspective than the other books we have read.  As a result, it addresses elements of human behavior that are not addressed in similar ways in other books.  The only thing that I did not really appreciate about the book is that it seemed rather unrealistic in its presentation of the two pastoral staffs.  I couldn’t tell if they were real people and situations or imagined communities to fit the author’s perspective.  They seemed more like stereotypes than actual pastoral staffs that probably find themselves more in between these two extremes.  Despite this fact, it dealt with issues that were important to consider in learning to work together effectively.

Also, the psychology upon which some of the premises were based is outdated material.  Considering this book is over 20 years old, it needs to be updated.  Some of the assumptions of that time would be flat out rejected today.  For instance, there is the assumption that one has total control over how one feels.  Although this may be largely true, we also know of the physiological imbalances that occur in the brain that cannot be controlled without some type of outside intervention.  We may only have a limited amount of control over our reactions.  Post-partum depression is a good example of this in action.

3. What did you think of her chapter on conflict management? Did you agree? What would you add if you were writing a chapter on that topic?

            Nuechterlein roots her understanding of conflict management in a Biblical understanding of grace and forgiveness.  We are a community of forgiven sinners.  Christ has made us holy and whole.  It is from this foundation that we are able to enter into conflict with a sense that we must be those that are able to forgive.  We do not operate to simply protect our own rights, but seek to listen and reconcile.  Conflict is not about being right, but working to restore right relationship.

Nuechterlein believes that there are four elements to creating a hospitable environment for conflict: taking risks, building trust, congruent and honest sharing, and negotiating.  I believe that these are all wonderful elements to help us navigate occasions of conflict.  If conflict is really about communicating with one another, then we need to be able to be open and honest while cooperating toward a common solution.  Trust is the foundation of this communication.  Trust can only be built upon honest sharing and cooperation.

Nuechterlein also sets out five ways to utilize congruent communication skills: establish boundaries, structure the process, search together for common goals, respond to threats with descriptions and statements of your position, and bring in a third party.  Again, I mostly agree with this approach.  However, I’m not sure a third party is always necessary.  There are instances where this would be advisable.  I do wish that our author would have explained more about structuring the process.  I am curious if this is always necessary as well.  However, this may be unique to each staff and how they decide would be most beneficial to deal with conflict.

If I were writing a chapter on conflict, I would have discussed moments of conflict within the church and how they were handled using the steps and methods prescribed.  It’s great to know that we are a forgiven and loved community, but what tangible ways has that played out in the early church and what does that look like more specifically for the local community.




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