Tips For Turmoil

I started a new ministry to recently to help troubled students. It’s going great! In fact, it’s almost “too” great. We’ve got an overabundance of volunteers. The ratio is something any ministry leader would salivate over.

However, with volunteers comes the occasional turmoil. Here are a few nuggets I’ve implemented while working through occasional blow ups between volunteers:

1. Determine the aggressor

It could be both leaders are aggressors in their own ways. However, if you can pinpoint which leader is the most demanding or hard to work with, that’s a great starting point to dealing with the issue. The next 4 points will largely be focused toward training this person to work toward the greater good of the ministry while learning how to be flexible and use more effective methods of communication.

2. Point out inflammatory comments

A leader I have confronted used extreme words to communicate her displeasure. Phrases like utterly disgusted, morally outraged, deeply saddened, throwing me under the bus were all extreme ways of communicating feelings in a way that prevented her co-leader from having a fair chance to respond and work through the issues.

To make matters worse, the leader would be pleasant and have no problems in person. However, it became predictable that she would fire off an inflammatory email full of these phrases when she returned home after our weekly event.

3. Train leaders to be healthy communicators

– Communicate in person – How I prefer my leaders to communicate is face-to-face. People will typically be more gracious in person. Somehow, the safe distance of a computer makes people more willing to rip each other apart and regret it later.

– Assume the positive – Your issue with another leader may seem completely justified in your mind. However, that’s a big part of the problem, it’s in your mind. Our minds tend to have imaginary conversations with people where we are always in the right. When we confront the person, we’ve already got both barrels loaded with flawed ammunition. If we start from the vantage point of being a learner instead of an aggressor, we allow the person to help us understand where she’s coming from. Usually, we’ll find we’re on the same page, just reading it differently.

4. Nip it in the bud

– Don’t let a lot of time go by before you address an issue. In this case, the aggressor kept canceling the meeting for a variety of meetings. I eventually called her into the office for a meeting with me without the other leader present so we could discuss the issues. At that point, I was willing to take what I could get. I had already discussed in detail with the leader being attacked her side of the story. I just needed to address the issues with the other leader.

The longer you let turmoil roll around in your ministry, the more damage and division it can cause. It’s like a bull in a china shop. If you want to protect your ministry from further damage, you’ll deal with issues (even though it makes you uncomfortable) before it spreads… which can’t be a good thing.

5. Dismiss a leader who is unable to change

– In this case, I decided to dismiss the aggressor. This was the 2nd co-leader she was having issues with. I could tell she had a great heart for ministry, she just lacked the skills to work with others to make it happen. Normally, I would not be so quick to dismiss a leader. However, this was a pretty cut and dry situation. When a leader isn’t a fit, he or she usually knows it before I do. By the time I’m ready to cut the cord, they’ve already probably started thinking about their exit strategy

– When I brought her in for the meeting the first words out of her mouth as she was sitting down were, “I’m resigning”. I think she kind of expected me to talk her into staying. We talked about her, her role in the ministry and the issues she was having. She had some very valid points. I also thanked her for some very valuable input and contributions she made to the ministry. When I told her I would accept her resignation, the look on her face said, “Well, THAT backfired.” It was, however, the best decision for the health of our ministry.

She will go on to serve in other ministries and do great. I have no doubt about this. If I had let her remain where she wasn’t a fit, I would have held her back from finding fulfillment in ministry and helping those God designed her to be a blessing to.

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dennisbeckner@churchleaders.com'
Dennis Beckner has served in youth ministry leadership for Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA since 1999. Dennis is a contributor and speaker to youth training events, writing projects and other engagements. Contact him at his blog, VolunteerYouthMinistry.com.