How much needs to be decided in some sort of centralized way and how much can (and should) be left to others to decide; whether those others are the children of parents, the employees of employers, the church plants of an anchor church or the various franchises of a chain of stores or restaurants?
In the world in which I live and minister—church plants and church revitalization that are initiated by an anchor church or denominational headquarters—this issue has caused a great deal of discussion with no small amounts of disputes, disagreements and, at times, anger and hostility.
My experience in being part of a pastoral staff at two different churches for around 20 years, as well as coaching several hundred pastors over the last fifteen years, has taught me the following:
1. It needs to be clearly communicated and understood as to which decisions are to be made in a centralized fashion and which are to be made by the leaders of either new church start-ups or church revitalizations. If it is not clear, confusion, frustration and endless decision-making discussions will eat up lots of time.
2. If ALL decisions are centralized, you will loose your creative leaders over time, as they will not be able to use their God-given gifts to make things happen and will not be content to just watch things happen that someone else is creating.
3. It takes lots of wisdom in determining when to turn decision-making authority over to others rather than keeping most of it centralized. You neither want to move too slowly or too quickly, but move you must.
4. An organization or church in which most things are centrally decided will attract and keep managers but will not attract and keep younger entrepreneurial leaders which it desperately needs to stay viable and relevant.
5. Insecure leaders who are unwilling or unable to trust others with decision-making authority will not be able to grow healthy churches or organizations that will last.
6. If you trust people and let them learn how to make more and more of the decisions, you will be amazed at their ideas, energy and creativity and they might (perish the thought) actually do a better job than you would.
7. I would rather err on the side of giving somebody too much authority than giving them too little, and work with them as they learn how to make better decisions.
8. If, as a central leader, you wait until you think somebody can do it as well as you can, you may never let go of it. As long as you think you’re the only one who can do it, you will be the only one who will do it. This is a one-way ticket to burnout and, perhaps, an early grave.
9. Keeping many (if not most) of the decisions in the hands of a small group of central leaders (especially if these leaders are older) is a sure recipe for missing the train, being on the wrong train, or having the train leave the station without you!
10. Generally speaking it is helpful to centralize administrative and financial issues and let the implementation of ministry ideas be decentralized as long as an agreeed-upon vision and set of values is adhered to. Leaders worth their salt like to be able to create and implement ideas and not have their hands tied by too much centralized control.