When Pastors Pull Rank

When Pastors Pull Rank

December 23, 2014 by

It’s that time of year for churches when all of our planning, preparation and prayer comes to fruition for the communities and congregations we serve. From the show-stopping wow factor at some churches to the simple candlelight carols at others, the reality for most churches is that reality is a little different during this time of year. This will most likely continue until Easter. This is a big season for us, and rightly so. The good news of the gospel would not exist without Jesus coming and Jesus dying!

For those of us who work for senior pastors/leaders, this is also the time of year when we realize just how much our ideas are disregarded. Sure, we’re told our  input and direction is wanted, and often it is heeded. But at the end of the day, the final “show” often includes moments  you would not want, because your pastor pulled rank.

I witnessed this just last week, albeit in a different context (not a church event). The senior leader felt pretty strongly about having a particular dance presentation in an upcoming event for the organization. The manager of the event—the person responsible for everything from creative to execution—felt pretty strongly the other way. The dance presentation, in her opinion, was not strong enough for the event and would reflect poorly on the organization. The senior leader felt otherwise, and pressed to make sure it would happen.

What would you do? Some might toss their hands in the air and say, “What am I here for?” Others might fight the battle until the end. Others might offer alternative ideas.

What do you do when your senior leader pulls rank and goes against your preferred vision or plan?

Having worked with some pretty strong senior leaders over the years, a few things have helped me navigate these frustrating situations.

1. Listen, Listen, Listen

No matter how much you want to make sure your dissenting opinion is registered, chances are pretty good it’s already known. Instead of talking more to make a point, listening more will make another point. That you actually care.

2. Sleep on It

In case you feel like your senior leader is not aware of your point of view, wait until the next day to share it. You’ll have a clear perspective on how to respond, and your response will be more rational and less emotional. If time doesn’t allow for the next day, go take a walk and then come back to deal with it.

3. Forget About It

No matter how bad (or good) the senior leader decision turned out, it doesn’t do any good to throw it back in their face. If it was bad, they’ll know it. If it was good, you’ll know it. Either way, the lesson to be learned is how you and your senior leader navigate differences, not the actual differences themselves.

4. Differences Cultivate Trust

Chances are pretty good you’re in the role you are because God has uniquely gifted you accordingly. You must steward that. When differences of opinion arise, these are the perfect environments to cultivate mutual respect and trust for the other.  Your senior leader will appreciate your perspective (even if you feel like it doesn’t matter). And you will get to know your senior leader better, as well as the values that guide their thinking. This goes a long way for the next event, moment or experience you’re working on together.


We do important work—sharing the gospel—but that doesn’t mean we can work ourselves to death. Learn more about how to fight church communicator burnout.

Photo by *_Abhi_*.
Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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