When you’re serving in a ministry position or pastoring a church, there are always going to be people that rub you the wrong way. They could be serving in the children’s department, heading up the WMU (hope some of you know what that is), leading the worship service, or they could just be a church member that always seems to be griping. No matter the area, there are always going to be those individuals that are sand paper against your skin.
But even though that is the case, God reminds us that we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against cosmic powers and spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12). That’s a hard thing to keep in mind when you feel like someone just did a drop kick from the top rope, directly into your solar plexus. So, when I feel like I need to pick up a chair and retaliate, I remember to ask myself a few questions, maybe they can help you too:
- Is there anything of value to their objections/insight that I can use to improve a situation or ministry?
This question is one that prods me to examine my own heart. Pride is an awful characteristic in any capacity, but especially in ministry. If we think that we have, without fail, covered every angle of every scenario, we will soon find ourselves in a grievous predicament.
There have been plenty of times that a “naysayer” was actually a blessing because they brought information, or insight, from a perspective that I had not considered. In those cases, I was able to then thank the person and incorporate their perspective into our decision-making process. In the scenario where their assessment was not valid, I had the opportunity to “sell the vision” to them and answer their objection with logic and reason. Most of the time, this created three positive outcomes: The ministry, or situation was improved. The individual with the “complaint” felt valued and subsequently had a bit of ownership in what was taking place. Finally, the “naysayer” became an advocate because they were able to take part in the development process.
- Is there an underlying irritant that is driving this individual to resist change?
A couple of years ago, I served with an individual who had a particularly negative disposition toward everything that we were trying to do to move the ministry in the right direction. After constantly hearing negative feedback to everything that was being proposed, I set some time aside to find out the person’s history with the church. They (the individual) shared with me that they felt burned the last time they served in a leadership position and didn’t want to get burned again. This person’s disposition was defensive because they were afraid of getting pushed around and hurt. If I had approached the situation with aggression and frustration, I would have ended up with a foe. Thankfully, I made an ally.
- Have I taken the time to get to know this person’s story? Is there a personal situation that is contributing to their frustration?
I’ve come to understand that most volatile situations are a byproduct of an individual’s personal circumstances and not the situation at hand. While someone may appear to be mad at you because you took their lamp out of their Sunday School room, they’re probably dealing with something much bigger. Maybe their life is falling apart and the only thing that they feel like they have control over is their Sunday school room. Maybe they have a loved one that received a terminal prognosis and they know that changes are coming and they’re holding on because all they want is something to stay the same.
Remember, the sheep will bite you. As a leader, you need tough skin and a tender heart. When they come with teeth bared, be ready to lovingly lead them and discover what really might be going on in their life.
- Is this an area where compromise isn’t going to complicate things?
Don’t confuse your preference for your principles. Compromise isn’t something most of us want to do. A child wants all the toys and it doesn’t matter if they’re not able to play with them all at once. Sometimes we want to be right and do things our way because we have misinterpreted a preference for a principle. If it’s not an area where compromise can take place, make sure you take the time to lovingly share the reasons why things have to be a certain way.
- Am I going to lovingly lead them or feed them to the wolves?
Most of all, remember that we are called to keep watch over the sheep. Yes, some are stubborn. Yes, some are flat out confused. But that doesn’t change the responsibility that we’ve been given to lovingly lead them.
Even though it’s sometimes difficult, we are to care for the sheep, not throw them to the wolves. There may come a time where an individual feels like they have to part ways, but “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).
We want to hear from you in the comments! What questions do you consider before responding to someone who is agitated? What have been your experiences as you’ve lovingly led the sheep?