Too often there’s stress in ministry that’s caused because we don’t have the best relationship with our fellow staff members. Whether it’s the church secretary or the senior pastor, if your relationship is strained with your fellow staff, you can’t be all you should be in ministry. Here are some steps I’ve found to be helpful in times when staff issues have reared their ugly head.
You have to seek God’s guidance in the situation. You need to pray that God will help to give you the wisdom it will take to rectify things between you and your fellow staff. You need to remember that in John 10:10, Jesus tells us the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy and the best way to do that in church settings is to cause dissension. Pray that God will help you see past the schemes of the enemy and help you to make things right. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to be proactive and pray that God would maintain harmony in your staff even when there seem to be no major issues dividing you.
2. Confront more.
Many of us in ministry are people pleasers, and we want to make sure we rock the boat as little as possible. This is a major way that the enemy gets a foothold in staff relationships. We tend to bottle up our anger until it can’t be suppressed any longer. It’s like the ’80’s ballad says, “we’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.” If you don’t lovingly confront the issue right away, it will only fuel anger until you confront not in love but in frustration, which seldom leads to reconciliation. Often, things that eventually become major issues start with bad communication, and continue to build until you’re not even sure why you’re angry with the other person. Putting concerns on the table as soon as they happen helps pave the way to clearing up misunderstandings and open the door to speedy reconciliation.
3. Speak less.
This may seem like a contradiction to number 2 but sometimes when we’re in bad staff situations we tend to be too confrontational. We want to “put that person in their place.” We often end up in arguments that only contribute to the problem and not preemptively lead us to healing. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. It’s up to you to prayerfully seek when it’s right to confront and when it’s right to be silent.
4. Stop gossiping.
Even if you dress it up as a “prayer request,” talking to others about your situation seldom helps. You want to go to the source of the issue rather than speaking behind your fellow staff’s back. A good rule is to only share frustrations with one person, like your accountability partner. This will help you to release some steam but will also give an opportunity for this person to hold you accountable to making things right while they pray for the situation as a whole.
5. Be kind.
I can still remember being a prescholer and learning the verse, “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32), in Sunday school. At that time it referred more to sharing toys than dealing with difficult staff members but the lesson learned is one that can and should be applied to staff relationships. Be kind. Do your best to have genuine compassion for your fellow staff. Take some time to consider what is happening in the other person’s life. Perhaps what they need is for you to respond in kindness to the situation. It is good to remind ourselves that we are not the only ones undergoing stress in ministry and different people deal with that stress in different ways. Kindness will go a long way in easing staff tensions. It is hard to not get along with someone who is genuinely kind to you.
6. Forgive much.
The rest of that verse says, “tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Realize that everyone is going to make mistakes. There are going to be days that even men and women called by God to lead other Christians don’t act like Jesus. Be prepared to forgive BEFORE forgiveness is sought-as God in Christ forgave you. This achieves a couple of things. One, it models Christlike love to your offender, and two, it doesn’t let anger grow in your heart. If you forgive the offense, you are freeing up vital space in your soul to minister rather than resenting your fellow staff member and their actions. I’m not advocating letting people walk all over you. However, taking on a spirit of forgiveness will help you know when confrontation is necessary and help you approach that confrontation with a peacemaker’s heart.
7. Exercise perseverance.
Mending a broken or hurting staff relationship doesn’t usually happen overnight. It took time to create the problem it will take time to repair it. Dedicate yourself to being a peacemaker over the long haul. Work at making things right. Just like a house that has been run down by years of weather and neglect can still be rebuilt, so can your relationship with your fellow staff member. It may take lots of time and effort but it will help you in your spiritual walk as well as benefit your ministry as their leaders work together in Christlike harmony. It may take quite awhile to sort through all of the issues but if you persevere, the wait is more than worth it.
Jasper Rains is the minister of students at Parkway Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri.