Posted by: pastordarren | June 24, 2009

Control vs. Empowerment

This is my third post concerning Reverend Dick Hamm’s book entitled, Recreating the Church: Leadership for the Postmodern Age.  Rev. Hamm is a former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is now doing writing and coaching for churches.  This is a wonderful and challenging book to all leaders and churches in today’s world. With in this book, Rev. Hamm talks about several polarities with in the church. I have written about a couple of these polarities, Maintenance verses Mission and Finance verses Stewardship. Today I would like to address what Rev. Hamm says about Control verse Empowerment.  Rev. Hamm says this about Control verses Empowerment, “control verses empowerment means that a leader nurtures the faith and spiritual gifts of members in such a way that they can think for themselves and can themsleves become teachers and leaders.”

A I have thought about this distinction, I have seen the difference between control and empowerment is a huge one.  Control happens when there are so many rules and guidelines that govern and micromanage a group or subgroup that people are afraid to act and move because they might go against the rules.  Also the rules are so controlling that there is no way to bend or even break the rules when they need to be.  When you empower someone, you train and give guidance and some direction to them and then turn them loose to use the gifts that they have been given to do ministry.  It may not be exactly the way you would do it, but they have been freed to do what they have been called to do.

Empowerment allows the development of each person’s gifts and calling and the use of those gifts for ministry.  Let me give you an example:  If you were to ask someone to create a media presentation for an advent worship service; control would be to tell them exactly what you wanted, the pictures, the music, the style, etc.  Empowerment would be to give the person some direction, “This is the theme or idea that will be the focus of the service”; “This is the idea that needs to be communicated”; “Include this song as part of it”; and then let them go to it.  You many need to see the final product before the worship to see if there is anything that needs to be adjusted, but if you trust them and they have the gifts, empower them to do it.

Rev. Hamm also talks about several other polarities with in the church, including withholding vs. granting authority; management vs. vision; pragmatism vs. core values; membership vs. discipleship; dependency vs. capacity; and democracy vs. discernment. I hope to share with you some thoughts from the book and my own mind in the next few days about these polarities and how Rev. Hamm and others see them in the church. I would be interested in your thoughts about this polarity and how it affects your church.


  1. I must say very nice and thoughtful article.I look forward to read the whole book.

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