The Shrinking Church
Leadership Thoughts for Reversing the Trend


Prologue and Introduction: Intent and PurposeThe Shrinking Church

This thread of articles is for clergy and leaders of mainline protestant churches. The purpose is to recognize systemic dysfunctions and leadership gaps that are limiting the effectiveness of the local church, and many times are in the way of true and effective ministries. For the full statement, see Post #1 of the ongoing series. The intent is to promote dialogue through, and awareness of, possibilities for growing healthy ministries of any kind.


Post #10:
The “Earl Grey Pastor” – doing nothing is not the answer



TeaI just heard the term “Earl Grey Pastor” from my son-in-law priest on Sunday. It’s quite a revealing term. It’s the pastor who is interested in office hours, Biblical study, worship design, pastoral care, but not in moving the church into new spaces of growth in ministry or relevance.
It’s a passive stance…it’s a risk avoidance stance…it’s an insecure stance…it might even be an attitude of avoiding work. I’m sure there are many reasons that a pastor is in the office drinking tea.




My last post was about disruption…the Donald Trump model. It’s being the BOSS, the micromanager, the autocratic leader. That’s push leadership.


The musical conductor influences the choir or orchestra, and draws out their participation and empowers high performance standards. That’s pull leadership.


Both of these models require skill. Both of these models require clarity of purpose and vision, and the ability to articulate them.


As William Willimon shared with me when I was doing research for my article on conflict (get it free HERE), pastors typically avoid conflict. Being passive might be a way to avoid conflict, however it avoids the inevitable by not addressing small issues. Small issues fester and ultimately become a bomb.




The issue I encounter with pastors is the perception of having to be “nice.” Being nice, in this case, is pleasing people by not addressing behaviors that create problems, or by not taking a stand by expressing an opinion for programs or principles that will help the church be relevant to the congregation it serves.


Pushing and bossing people is irritating. Doing nothing new and not leading is also irritating. Today’s thinking church member wants to be challenged and to have their pastor be their spiritual leader.


I’m still concerned that our church polity expects pastors to be the CEO, as well, and that’s a conflict.


Let’s have some tea.


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Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership StrategistTM

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  1. Stephen Kunst August 26, 2019 at 5:38 am - Reply

    My job, as a pipe organ technician, takes me to many churches. In the past 20 years I see less and less clergy about the churches I visit. Even when there is a large/expensive organ repair there is no sign of the Pastor. For most churches I have serviced for 20 years, I have not yet seen the Pastor, or organist. In my own church, a long time Rector, who was nearly 100% in coasting mode, died, and a new man has taken over. What seemed like an opportunity for re-birth now has given way to “how long do we have to wait this one out, til he finds greener pastures?” Being a millennial Priest, he is all about his peeps and cell phone. Its as though he feels he has been assigned to the church, as the RC’s or Methodists do, and hes just here biding his time til he finds that jewel church, which has money and a grand building.. Much of his time is spent out of town visiting priest friends.

    • Hugh Ballou August 30, 2019 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comments. I’m sad to her about this and know this is why many churches are fading away.

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