If you have been in ministry for two weeks or twenty years, you’ve probably encountered someone who was tough to deal with. You know the ones I am describing and a few faces probably come to mind. These are the volunteers that when you see them, you pretend to look busy and avoid contact if possible. Or when you see their name on the schedule you let out a labored sigh. It is taxing and troubling.
It may be helpful to first consider why we perceive them as difficult. I do not believe there are difficult people. We have all been created in the image of God and we are all fallen from God-intended design for mankind. When we label people as “difficult,” we are asserting that we have things figured out and they are the ones with the issues to deal with. This creates and elevated sense of self-worth that can be devastating for the spiritual health of any ministry. When Jesus came to earth, to deal with “difficult” people mind you, he did not cast people out from following him because they did not understand or were having difficulties. He compassionately spent time instructing them and showing them the way of life, love and freedom.
If those serving in our ministry should not be considered difficult, why do we have issues with people? Here are a few thoughts.
Some may place more value in something you don’t place much value.
This can be something trivial like a song they would like to sing or something significant like a program they would like to start. The issue is that they see it as important and you do not. This likely originates from philosophical or methodological differences that may be difficult to see from the surface. Further:
Some may define worship or the purpose of ministry differently than you do.
If you are defining worship ministry as something that includes music, but is not defined by it, you’ll receive some pushback from those who define it as a music ministry. If a singer is finding their identity in what they sing, if that is taken from them, they will respond in troubling ways because the sense of identity is being threatened and changed.
Some are operating under previous defined guidelines and expectations.
The previous leader likely did some things different. If you were wise, you did not abolish everything the previous person put in place. Therefore, there are residual expectations and ways of doing things that you must be mindful of. If a volunteer does not realize we are expecting something different, how can we be upset when they are operating under the previous guidelines? Which leads to the next point.
They have not been shown or taught the vision.
When clear vision is given and repeated so that people understand, an opportunity for paradigm shift is available. If they do not receive or understand where you want to go, how could you expect them to follow you?
So how do we respond and pastor them by helping them grow? I would encourage you to read and contemplate Paul’s words in . This passage comes after Paul explanation of all that God has done in chapters 1-3. If is about what God has done, then chapters 4-6 are about our response. It is no mistake that Paul places unity as the first command.
Unity and unified vision should be the first goal in dealing with all people within your ministry. When we perceive people as “difficult” we are not fostering unity. In fact, our own mindset is one of dissension. Paul calls us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (). The Message paraphrases the command in this way: “Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.”
Promoting oneness is not easy and it means dealing with people who have issues with how you are leading the ministry. But here are some ways to help in that struggled, joyous journey of unity.
Paul explains that the spiritual leaders of the community are called to “equip the saints” and “build up the body of Christ.” This is not a task to be taken lightly. Consider yourself a worship teacher. What are people learning about worship from you? How are you teaching them what worship is and why we do what we do? If we equip people with the knowledge of worship and help them understand the vision, we are assisting in the task of building the body and helping it grow.
Please, do not overlook this. You are shepherding people and they need your prayers. Jesus reveals that he is continually interceding for us. And in Paul’s letters he continually states that he is praying for the recipients of his letters. If Jesus and Paul are praying for those they are shepherding, it may be a good idea to follow suit. Figure out a time in your day when you can pray for those who serve with you. Pray for them by name and ask how you can specifically pray for them.
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” The people in your ministry are not there to serve you. You are there to serve th em. Jesus gave us the perfect model of servant-leadership, and if we want to develop servant-hearted people, we must show them by serving them.