Monday, June 14, 2010

Power or Trust

Something I've been thinking about for some time is the nature of working relationships - especially in a hierarchical institution. If you are a minister in the MCSA then you work in a hierarchical setting - with yourself as the bottom level! Bishops and superintendents are theoretically above you. How a minister relates to the church congregation or society depends very much on the personality or leadership style of the minister. He or she can make it hierarchical or more flat.
A hierarchy allows for working relationships based on power. I am the boss and you will do as I say. One can operate on a 'need to know' basis and expect simple obedience. A trust relationship is one where there is some measure of common understanding and, I think, a deeper knowledge of each other.
There are places where power relationships are appropriate - such as parent-child, teacher-class and other where trust relationships are appropriate - such as in a marriage. But exactly how to know which relationship is correct in a church situation is difficult. I know that I would nearly always prefer to work in a trust relationship with my boss.
The things is with power relationships - a powerful person will never need to trust anyone, until he or she is confronted with a friend who has equal power. And then, will they know how to trust?


Anonymous said...

Maybe the key to the position can be found in the meaning of the Greek word that underlines it? A clue to what God through Paul intended the function to be?

Steven Jones said...

I think that once trust has been established, the need to exercise power diminishes. Granted, there are certainly times where one has to say that "the buck stops here", but the degree to which one accepts the instruction depends on the amount of trust they have in the one giving the instruction.

If I think of the relationsships where I end up having little respect for the person concerned, usually it is because they have either (a) tried to exercise power before they have earned trust, or (b) have broken trust in some way, thereby making their power illegitimate.

Doesn't sound very Christ-like, I know - and I keep asking myself the question, "What would Jesus have done in XYZ situation?"

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Steven, I agree with what you say. But I'm also wondering what happens in a relationship that is legitimately power based. If you were a manager in business you would expect your secretary to do what you asked. You don't need to gain her trust. I don't think your power becomes illegitimate if you break trust. So trust is optional.
I'm trying to get this clear in my mind!

Thomas Scarborough said...

This hierarchy thing is, statistically, one of the main problems of ministry. Not that we know much of hierarchy in the Congregational Church.