There are parallels between parents barracking for their kids from the sidelines, and parishioners who have all the 'answers' (solutions) but are unwilling to take responsibility of putting them into practise.
Every Christian leader faces the scenario where members of their congregation or association offer their 'tuppence' worth of advice, sometimes couched in terms more like a directive. It is often these same people who are 'just not there' when there is hands-on work to be done in order to see their 'suggestion' come to fruition.
As the founder of the Sports and Leisure Ministry (SLM), between 1982-2000 I needed to negotiate with professional sports administrators to place a chaplain for the pastoral care of their employees (athletes, coaches, staff). I found that many on the sideline offered suggestions as to who to meet and what to say. However, in almost every situation, the information supplied was inaccurate and highly inappropriate for the philosophy I was trying to implement.
Moreover I was often dismayed when those I thought were on my wavelength were inept in a formal negotiation, and sometimes misread comments of others at sensitive stages in the process.
Like many Christian leaders in such situations, I find it difficult to articulate 'the intuition given to them' by the Spirit of the Lord. What might first appear as arrogance is in reality a situation in which they know where they are heading and how to get there.
Again within my time at SLM, I had an idea to establish the "Friend of SLM" award in order to acknowledge the help of a person outside the Christian establishment, but within a professional sport, who had gone out of their way to ensure the chaplaincy program was welcomed.
Many professional coaches and administrators were remarkably helpful. It was their actions that saw the chaplaincy role fall into place and find a welcome home. The chaplaincy would have proved an uphill battle without their support.
However, there was one Sydney clergyman who sometimes filled in for an absent board member, who argumentatively spoke against the introduction of such an award. In his view, Salvation came through Grace, not through assisting the chaplaincy program (as a form of earning Salvation). Fortunately, in the Board meetings, his inappropriate suggestions were overruled.
Of course, in this particular example, that gentleman had the bull by the horns. There was no way I was seeking to gain or explain Salvation to those who might read of such an award, but only to reward those whose efforts and long term commitment had enabled a Chaplaincy program to work well, and in turn to help other human beings in their times of need.
Lack of thinking through
The attitude of the clergyman was an example of the situation where people 'advising' a leader lack a sense of connectivity to the reality of what is happening on the ground. Sometimes it is because these advisers are too academic or theoretical in their field; sometimes it is because they just tell the leader what they think he wants to know. A good leader will 'see through this' and insist on reality-checks and adequate practical research before making any decision on 'advice'.
In reflecting on his own experiences and trying to form some generalities, over the years I have witnessed many examples of good leaders, where everyone's ideas were considered by the congregation, or board, or organisation. A good leader will manage the outspoken 'loud mouth', will encourage those who want to push an idea and to do some work towards its implementation, and will also make sure that those people are also heard who have genuinely practical and innovative ideas, those who may be shy and not speak out or be overpowered by the loud ones.
A good leader, in my view, will not allow the organisation to deteriorate into the scenario like that of the children's sports matches, where the parents are loudly and ineffectively commenting from the sidelines, but he/she will integrate those 'side-liners' into supportive and effective members of the community that he/she is managing.
However, also from my experiences, clashes particularly with those who proclaim their own opinions loudly and obnoxiously can cause stresses with leaders trying to do the 'right' and 'democratic' thing.
For Christian ministers, at least, there is help when stresses occur. For example, Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher of John Mark Ministers (Pastor to Pastors) has been dealing with such anxiety of Ministers for three decades. If you know of clergy who would like to discuss any of their leadership issues or stressful situations, his contact details are: jmm.aaa.net.au
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html