While I doubt that pastors and leaders intentionally hang up the phone on individuals who disagree with them or lack power and influence, that’s often what the experience feels like. True diversity”“of race, gender, education, and economic means”“distributes power and creates a more balanced system. A church that invites a diverse group of individuals to govern it and then affirms their voices prevents toxic leaders from gaining inordinate power in the first place.
If you are part of a leadership team, look around the room and ask the simple question, “Who’s missing?” Are the diverse voices of the Body of Christ truly represented by your team? In addition to the “visible” minorities, have you made space for the single parent, the disabled, the elderly, or other folks who are often pushed to the margins?
When a leader or organization begins to exhibit symptoms of toxicity, our voices can serve as a powerful antibiotic. Silence often empowers toxic leaders. (This is not to imply that any abuse of power is the fault of the victim or that speaking up will necessarily go well. It often goes so poorly we may regret that we didn’t simply keep quiet.) By raising thoughtful questions”“What would be the long-term impact of that change be on our congregation?”“and sharing concerns”“I don’t think those expectations are realistic”“parishioners and co-leaders eliminate the possibility of silence being interpreted as agreement.
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