What Aren’t You Doing That Is Causing Ministry Staff Conflict?
I hear of so much conflict in church staffs. My friend and counterpart from the Kansa-Nebraska Convention, David Manner, offers some great advice to restore harmony to your church staff:
Churches will never be healthy until the ministers who lead those churches are healthy. And ministry leaders will never be completely healthy until their ministry staff relationships are also healthy.
Healthy ministry teams embrace and constantly share their unified goals of fulfilling and helping each other fulfill the mission of their organization. Unhealthy ministry staffs function as independent contractors who perform their own specified tasks dependent only on their own strength, ability, methods, processes, and talent.
Even if your ministry staff is high functioning and producing individually, you will never experience extraordinary staff and church health until you agree that you are all in this together. Ironically, the impasse seems to occur less as a result of something we are doing actively to derail relationships than as a result of what we aren’t doing passively.
You aren’t pastoring each other. Pastors are not immune from the struggles of life such as depression, physical health issues, marital struggles, wayward children, and financial stress. If we aren’t sensitive and willing to pastor our ministry colleagues and their families when they face those issues and others…who will? And who will be there for you?
You aren’t loving each other. In fact, some of us don’t really even like each other. Scripture reminds us to love God first, then our neighbors as ourselves. Our closest neighbors beyond our family should be the people we serve with. No stipulation is offered in this passage as to whether the neighbor really deserves or has earned the right to be loved. The command is also not contingent on a reciprocal response.
You aren’t praying for and with each other. Praying that God will call one of your staff colleagues somewhere else is not praying for and with each other, it is selfishly praying for you. Praying for and with each other requires communication, vulnerability, honesty, trust, brokenness, and selflessness. Praying for and with each other can surface hurts, unmet expectations, personal needs, ministry goals, concerns, and dreams. The result of praying for and with each other about things that really matter may initiate a change of attitude, opinion, heart, and vision, which will encourage reciprocity of love that did not exist before.
You aren’t sharing ministry together. Shared ministry requires sacrifice, humility, investment, and trust. It publicly and privately affirms the calling and competence of others. It is not guarded, territorial, defensive, or competitive and doesn’t care who gets the credit. Shared ministry means that even when your position requires you to have the last word it doesn’t always have to be your word. Shared ministry encourages reading, studying, and conferencing together, and has enough confidence in the abilities and intentions of team members to allow and offer lateral mentoring and coaching.
You aren’t playing together. We are constantly encouraging the members of our congregations to develop relationships of transparency, fellowship, and community and yet never model those characteristics as a ministry staff. The relationships exemplified by the Acts 2 church as they spent time together, had everything in common, broke bread in their homes, and ate together with glad and sincere hearts is often completely foreign to some ministry staffs. Teams who enjoy being together radiate a solidarity that is contagious. Conversely, staffs that don’t enjoy being together emit a cloud that is cancerous. In fact, enjoying each other, playing and laughing together may actually be the starting point for developing some of those previously listed insufficiencies.
We are all in this together is agreeing that, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).