Are you a leader of a ministry in the church? Perhaps a praise team leader, or the team lead for the greeter ministry or the grounds crew. If you have a leadership role of any type in the body of Christ, I have a guarantee for you:
Sooner or later you are going to hurt someone’s feelings!
I have been in churches for a good many years now, and must admit that I am still amazed at how frequently it happens. Someone’s attitude or attendance pattern or willingness to serve in the ministry changes. And when you are finally able to get them to be honest with you about what is going on, they detail how someone in leadership said something, or did something (usually both) that bruised their feelings. Now, in response, they have drawn away from whole-hearted participation in the ministry of the church.
Ironically, the leader who is blamed for the problem usually had no intention of causing any offense, and is often totally unaware that offense was taken. But leaders need to know that just by virtue of the delegated authority they have been entrusted with, everything they say and do has a disproportionate impact on those working under their leadership. Plus, many people (especially those who are less spiritually mature or less experienced in the church) have an unstated expectation that godly church leaders will always be perfect in treating workers with Christ-like love and consideration. When they feel that a leader has failed in that regard, their judgment can be harsh.
That’s why, in our church we have begun teaching our leaders some keys that can help them avoid hurting workers’ feelings, and when they do hurt them, as they inevitably sometimes will, to minister to the one who was hurt. In this series of posts, I’ll share some of those keys with you.
Key #1 – KNOW YOUR PURPOSE: it’s not just getting the job done!
A good leader is usually very committed to accomplishing the goal. That’s why it can be easy for them to slip into being more task-oriented than people-oriented. But, if you want a sure-fire recipe for getting feelings hurt on a ministry team, give that team a leader who sees the team members as just instruments to be used in achieving the team’s objectives. That’s why leaders need to be keenly aware that their major purpose is not accomplishing the task! There are, in fact, two other considerations that take precedence over the task itself. Here’s the first and most important of these:
1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
The #1 purpose in life of every believer is to glorify God. Everything I do should have the ultimate aim of letting my light so shine that people who observe my behavior won’t be able to help giving God glory for what they see in me (Matthew 5:13-16). What applies to all of us as individual Christians, certainly applies with double force to those in leadership. One of the primary roles of leaders in the church is to be examples to other believers
(1 Peter 5:2-3). So, if there is anything that church members should see in their leaders, it is our commitment to glorifying God in absolutely everything we do. Therefore, when it comes to the ministry team that has been entrusted to my care and guidance:
My primary purpose as a leader is to glorify God in the way I lead my team.
That comes before anything else. It is more important than anything else. Therefore, anything a ministry leader does toward helping the team achieve its goals must be done in a way that glorifies God. That means, for example, that some common secular methods of getting the results you want from workers are off the table from the beginning: manipulation, threats, outbursts of anger, sarcasm, etc. These certainly don’t glorify God, and Christian leaders should never, ever allow themselves to fall into employing them.
Jesus made it very clear how He expects believers to glorify God with one another and before the world:
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
As a ministry leader, my #1 goal should be to exemplify and model and stir up Christ-like love among the members of my team, so that they are blessed and God is glorified by their participation on the team. Even when confrontation is necessary (and that is a part of the leader’s role), I am committed to “speaking the truth in love” so that whatever the outcome, neither I nor team members ever lose sight of our brotherly love for one another.
The second consideration that takes precedence over accomplishing the task is embodied in the apostle Paul’s description of why God placed various leaders in the church:
Ephesians 4:11-15 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ.
Paul says that the purpose of the leadership God has given the church is to edify (instruct, train, develop, build up) the body of believers so that mature disciples of Jesus Christ are produced as a result. Whatever may be the specific ministry objectives a leader has, the ultimate goal is making and strengthening disciples. I believe this applies to every leader at every level in the church.
My second purpose as a leader is to help team members grow as disciples of Christ.
That means that as a ministry leader I cannot just focus on how a team member’s gifts and skills can help achieve the team’s goals. I must also, as a priority, consider how to help that person grow spiritually through their membership on the team. In a very real way, every ministry leader must be a pastor to the members of their team.
Now that I know that my purpose as a leader is first to glorify God, and then to minister to members of my team so as to help them mature in Christ, the next question is: how does that work out in practice? Here are a few practical implications.
1. Always treat team members with respect (honor) and love – they are of much more importance than the task. (1 Peter 2:17; 1 Corinthians 13). This requires much patience, especially when performance falls short of expectations (Proverbs 19:11, NIV).
2. Always build team members up, never tear them down – words that tear down will cause hurt feelings (Proverbs 15:4).
3. Always maintain a positive attitude toward team members– your “merry heart” (or lack thereof) will affect their spirits (Proverbs 17:22).
4. Never throw a team member under the bus– the leader does not publicize team members’ shortcomings, but allows himself or herself to be the target of any arrows (blame) when the team does not accomplish its goals (Proverbs 10:12; 11:13).
5. Make a deliberate and conscious effort to be a godly role model– determine to demonstrate to your team how a mature believer glorifies God in the way they handle the issues they observe you dealing with (Hebrews 13:7). And by the way, this includes providing them an example of how you recover when you mess up! (1 John 1:9).
In reality, if a leader just understands and abides by the priorities of glorifying God and ministering to team members, they will have already gone a long way toward doing all they can to avoid hurting people’s feelings. But, there is more to come!
Next key to preventing hurt feelings: KNOW YOUR GOAL