Project Materials







This study explores the power relations in the Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (COCZ).  The struggles in the COCZ are between the older generation of pastors and church elders on one hand and the youthful pastors and young technocrats on the other.  Conflict in the church does not result in good witnessing; especially taking into cognizance that the COCZ has beliefs and practices that could be used for enhancing lives of people in the community. This study purposes at transforming church conflicts to better empower the church systems for the greater good.  This study uses a qualitative approach to propose models of church leadership that can transform conflicts in the church, and can align the powers of elders and pastors in the church.  The study used questionnaire interviews, Key Informant interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs) to obtain information from elders and pastors. The study observed that leadership positions in the COCZ are used to gain resources and power. This study suggests ways of resolving such conflicts amicably to help the church and the community.  The experience in the COCZ has been that lay leaders (elders) were given power by white missionaries to treat trained leaders (ordained pastors) as their employees.  Due to pastors’ lower academic qualifications, elders regulated the pace in the church.  By the turn of the millennium, more and more pastors attained higher academic qualifications, mostly in further ministerial formation, even acquiring masters and doctorates in their fields of choices.  The increase of highly educated pastors has led to the shift in power from lay leaders to trained leaders creating a power struggle between pastors and elders. The study observed the place of positions in the COCZ, and how they are used to gain resources and power. The study finally seeks to recommend the need for replication of similar studies in individual regions of the country, to further compare and explore the possible solutions to challenges of trained and lay leaders in the COCZ in the 10 political provinces of the country.        



List of Tables and Figures


Table 1.1: GKD Church Leadership and Membership Statistics


Table 1.2: Number of pastors (clergy) and elders (Laity) respondences







1.0 Introduction

This study sets out to investigate power relations between elders and pastors in the Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (COCZ).  This study argues that in the COCZ elders enjoyed a privileged position during the colonial era when missionaries assigned higher responsibilities to them, and pastors were treated as their employees because their sustenance was given through elders, resulting in conflict of the clergy and the laity.  Unfortunately, pastors then were poorly trained compared to lay leaders who were in secular professions and earned a living from government employment.  The vision of the church was birthed by elders who inherited the church from the missionaries and pastors were given a roster within the vision of the elder.  With pastors increasingly pursuing education today, they have begun to demand their place in visioning and implementing church programs, and this has automatically become a necessity for pastors to take up leadership positions in the church.  With a poorly defined structure, elders have continued to demand a bigger stake while pastors equally justified their need to take over in most of the church’s leadership positions.  Therefore, this study pursues to understand the working relations of pastors and elders in the COCZ.

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1.1 Background to the study

The COCZ uses the principle of autonomy in running church affairs, an ideology that was inherited from the American concept of democracy and individualism among others (Masengwe, Machingura and Magwidi 2012).  In this way, individual missionaries ran their activities with their church leaders and did not encourage African converts to work together.  Missionaries though, had their own organizations and were controlled by Central Africa Mission (CAM), yet African converts were made to believe that organizing was not biblical or Christian.  Uncritically, church elders embraced the doctrine and used it to undermine the innovations of church pastors.  With autonomy, many church communities became secluded and many elders went it alone with their congregations, and during difficult times, hired and fired pastors at will.  In fact, this battle has not been evident until where money and properties were involved.  Elders thus encircled themselves with subservient pastors and tried to eliminate any internal and external challenges to their leadership. When missionaries returned to their sending communities and countries, pastors’ welfare was threatened and started to innovate, firstly by engaging in income generating projects and secondly by acquiring higher academic qualifications in their further ministerial formation.  The increased numbers of pastors who can take care of themselves and their families have led to an increased voice among pastors.  This increased voice has threatened elders who previously enjoyed control of the church in the past few years.  Elders had assumed total authority and control in the church, and this gave them an ultimate and final voice on church decisions, and being accountable to no one else but to themselves alone.  The alienation of pastors from church leadership, who were regarded as ex officio members and thus non-voting and non-participating in church decisions, has led to a weak pastoral ministry and service in the church.  In which case pastors who have done further ministerial formation and acquired higher academic qualifications are challenging the status quo, and some are even contesting for higher church posts.   Also, the issue of strategic planning is challenging the church to stick to its historical and theological mandate.  Unfortunately, no one is so qualified that he/she can perform better than pastors in this area of calling.  The COCZ now has educated pastors, a scenario which puts pastors in control of church activities.  In fact, not many of the educated lay persons have gone beyond masters’ degrees, a situation that unfortunately bends against the position of elders in the church.  The latest scenario has seen pastors attaining higher levels of education thus commanding respect within a constituency which used to respect educated elders. In this way, pastors and elders are in a struggle for control and authority in the church.


Further, the missionary ideology was to alienate pastors from the centre of church leadership even though missionaries retained their authority.  Over the years, the COCZ has grown in a number of fronts, challenging missionary ideologies and administration, and today the COCZ is designing a national administration structure that aligns professional qualifications with responsibilities. This has opened a can of worms over the previous church administration by lay elders who, in a move to counter the move, have mobilized to form a group of elders of those who are over sixty years.  Pastors are thus, by their position wrestling this power away from the elders resulting in a seemingly tug-of-war between elders and pastors.  For this reason, this study purposes at investigating conflict between elders and pastors for the greater good of the COCZ family.

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