What Makes a Ministry “Safe”?

Introducing Four Core Questions

of “Safe” versus “Sick” Systems

OVERVIEW: I have long held the opinion that it is not enough to critique what is wrong with something, if you are not interested in figuring out what is right with it and extending that, or doing something to help fix and then keep improving what is deficient. Much of my research and writing for the past seven years on futuristguy has been about evaluating problems and moving toward solutions. This article on what makes a ministry or system “safe” versus “sick” introduces four core questions to guide our thinking. Detailed versions of the questions and contrasting responses are part of a forthcoming curriculum for social transformation agents, “Do Good, Plus Do No Harm.”

1. Are we treating people with humanization and hospitality, or objectification and hostility?

  • Humanization places objective value on people simply for their existence, regardless of what they may or may not be able to do for the institution. Objectification values people for what they can do for those in power or for the part they play in keeping the organizational machine going.
  • Hospitality welcomes people in and lifts them up. Hostility keeps people out or holds them down.
  • A good indicator of humanization and hospitality is how we divide people into categories or classes, and treated some differently based on those factors (e.g., age, race, marital status).

2. Are our leaders qualified, unqualified, or disqualified from service in a responsible public role of authority, influence, and decision-making?

  • Leaders are qualified by reason of mature personal character and consistent moral/ethical behavior.
  • Individuals who seek leadership are unqualified if they are personally immature, and/or are under-skilled for the specific requirements of the role sought.
  • Individuals who seek leadership are disqualified by reason of bad personal character and harmful/evil behavior (i.e., immoral/unethical).
  • A good project for figuring out what constitutes role-model-worthy maturity is to create “must-have” and “can’t-have” lists of character qualities and behaviors for leaders, based on Galatians 5:19-26 (the desires of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit), and leader profiling in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5.

3. Are our organizations structured to dominate and control, or develop and give freedom?

  • With domination, the resources flow from people-as-pawns to their exploiters. With development, the resources flow from and among participants.
  • Control conditions people into functioning outside the demands of their personal conscience and the dreams of their personal direction, and puts the responsibility for directives of “good” versus “harm” on external/organizational sources and forces. Freedom releases people to function responsibly according to their personal conscience and direction, within communal norms of “good” without inflicting “harm.”
  • Very different kinds of organizational structures can still be used to dominate and control its members. For instance, control can be through compliance (like the former Soviet Union), chaos (like the Maoist Cultural Revolution), or charisma (Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple). Authoritarian leaders can control centralized, hierarchical organizations or can co-opt decentralized, “flat structure” networks. And it does not matter whether the scale of the dominated enterprise is small, medium, or large.

4. Are our collaborative social involvements designed for sojourners or colonizers?

  • Sojourners travel together as interdependent people of equal value who serve one another for the benefit of all. Colonizers take over with some people being more important/valuable, and make the rest subservient to those few.
  • Sojourners share, listen, and teach. Colonizers take, tell, and indoctrinate.
  • Either set of dynamics seem to be able to drive any scale of collaborative enterprises from the small and local (projects), or medium and regional (partnerships) to large and global (politics).

Summary

A “safe/healthy” space is one where people are treated with humanity, welcomed with hospitality, leaders are role models for their character and behavior, the organization serves to help people develop and find their wings, as the group travels the road of life together to the benefit of both individuals and the group as a whole. A safe space nurtures hope, helpfulness, and human flourishing.

An “unsafe/toxic” space is one where people are viewed with contempt and treated as cogs in the machine that benefit the few, where those in control consistently harm others, where the organization diminishes the personhood of the many to benefit the power-prestige-greed of the few, and it imposes its limited views and unlimited desire for control wherever possible. An unsafe space inflicts despair, learned helplessness, and abuse.

Lawsuit Against Mars Hill Church Leaders – Resource Bibliography (UPDATED)

RESOURCE BIBLIOGRAPHY ON FIVE POTENTIAL LEGAL ISSUES

The two main purposes of this post are (1) to list and describe five key potential legal issues that are relevant to a probable RICO civil suit against at least four key leaders from Mars Hill Church, and (2) to compile links to research resources that provide historical background, analysis, and/or interpretation of those issues. Continue reading

Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse – Part 3D – Step 5, Overview. Dealing with Toxic Leaders Who Need Healing and Sick Organizational Systems That Need Repairing

Part 3 – Concepts, Questions, and Continuums for Building a Comprehensive “Remediation Plan”

Part 3D. Step 5, Overview. Dealing with Toxic Leaders Who Need Healing and Sick Organizational Systems That Need Repairing

So now we get to Step 5, overviewing a process for responding to “malignant ministers” and their toxic systems. In this Step, we’ll consider as persons of interest those who are undeniably spiritually abusive leaders who hold a significant level of control in a definitely toxic church, ministry, or non-profit. So, the question is not whether malady and damage are present, but to what degree and how stark our actions should be in dealing with them.

Keeping those “persons of interest” in mind, there are four specific layers for leaders in a system where both need “healing” – whether the need is only slight, very substantial, or in between. The first two Layers are for individual leaders who’ve been abusive. The last two Layers are for groups to deal with abusive leaders and the organization that’s been affected. Continue reading

Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse – Part 3H – Step 5, Layer 4 – Affected Groups Need to Deal with Sick Organizational Systems

Part 3 – Concepts, Questions, and Continuums for Building a Comprehensive “Remediation Plan”

Part 3H. Step 5, Layer 4.

Affected Groups Need to Deal with Sick Organizational Systems

ABUSIVE LEADERS

Layer 1 – How to determine the levels of personal growth and recovery needed by leaders who harm others, regardless of how gifted they are or how much they help others.

Layer 2 – How to identify what levels of peace-making are needed in personal relationships where a leader has caused damage.

AFFECTED GROUPS

Layer 3 – How to ensure individuals qualified for roles to lead the organization stay, when those disqualified should be removed, and when/if they should ever be restored to a former position.

Layer 4 – How to discern whether an organization that is toxic can be repaired, or should not even survive.

[Click on the chart to view a larger version.]

Step 5, Layer 4 ~ Affected Groups Need to Deal with Sick Organizational Systems

Step 5, Layer 4 ~ Affected Groups Need to Deal with Sick Organizational Systems

There are so many questions when it comes to the people in an organization deciding what to do about problems in it:

  • Why would an organization need to be shut down?
  • What issues make it our choice on what to do with repairing or shutting down our organization, and what issues could take that choice out of our hands?
  • What makes for a “safe” or “optimal” environment for teamwork? Is “unsafe” or “unhealthy” the exact opposite of that?
  • What does “healthy” – not “perfect” – look like?
  • Who should we exclude from input or oversight on carrying out major organizational renovation or actual shut-down?
  • How do we deal publicly with toxic, sidelined leaders who need to be called out?
  • Is there such a thing as “organizational repentance,” and if so, what does it look like?
  • Why is hope an integral part of the process of dealing with sick organizational systems?

Continue reading

Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse – Part 3G – Step 5, Layer 3 – Affected Groups Need to Deal with Toxic Leaders

Part 3 – Concepts, Questions, and Continuums for Building a Comprehensive “Remediation Plan”

Part 3G. Step 5, Layer 3.

Affected Groups Need to Deal with Toxic Leaders

ABUSIVE LEADERS

Layer 1 – How to determine the levels of personal growth and recovery needed by leaders who harm others, regardless of how gifted they are or how much they help others.

Layer 2 – How to identify what levels of peace-making are needed in personal relationships where a leader has caused damage.

AFFECTED GROUPS

Layer 3 – How to ensure individuals qualified for roles to lead the organization stay, when those disqualified should be removed, and when/if they should ever be restored to a former position.

Layer 4 – How to discern whether an organization that is toxic can be repaired, or should not even survive.

[Click on the chart to view a larger version.]

Step 5, Layer 3 ~ Affected Groups Need to Deal with Toxic Leaders

Step 5, Layer 3 ~ Affected Groups Need to Deal with Toxic Leaders

Introduction

At this point, we switch from a focus on the individual leader with problems to address, to move to the organizations they’ve built. These are influenced by and infused with toxic strategies and structures, processes and procedures. Addressing them means shifting from individual responsibility to corporate discernment and decision-making. To put it bluntly: At this Layer, the sidelined leader is no longer in the driver seat. Period. Continue reading

Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse – Part 3F – Step 5, Layer 2. Abusive Leaders Need to Deal with Interpersonal Issues

Part 3 – Concepts, Questions, and Continuums for Building a Comprehensive “Remediation Plan”

Part 3F. Step 5, Layer 2.

Abusive Leaders Need to Deal with Interpersonal Issues

ABUSIVE LEADERS

Layer 1 – How to determine the levels of personal growth and recovery needed by leaders who harm others, regardless of how gifted they are or how much they help others.

Layer 2 – How to identify what levels of peace-making are needed in personal relationships where a leader has caused damage.

AFFECTED GROUPS

Layer 3 – How to ensure individuals qualified for roles to lead the organization stay, when those disqualified should be removed, and when/if they should ever be restored to a former position.

Layer 4 – How to discern whether an organization that is toxic can be repaired, or should not even survive. Continue reading

Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse – Part 3E – Step 5, Layer 1. Abusive Leaders Need to Deal with Personal Issues

Part 3 – Concepts, Questions, and Continuums for Building a Comprehensive “Remediation Plan”

Part 3E. Step 5, Layer 1.

Abusive Leaders Need to Deal with Personal Issues

ABUSIVE LEADERS

Layer 1 – How to determine the levels of personal growth and recovery needed by leaders who harm others, regardless of how gifted they are or how much they help others.

Layer 2 – How to identify what levels of peace-making are needed in personal relationships where a leader has caused damage.

AFFECTED GROUPS

Layer 3 – How to ensure individuals qualified for roles to lead the organization stay, when those disqualified should be removed, and when/if they should ever be restored to a former position.

Layer 4 – How to discern whether an organization that is toxic can be repaired, or should not even survive. Continue reading