My head is often racing in the realm of ministry because that is where my vocation and calling intersect. Ministry has its perks, while balancing its fair share of problems. As pastors we often think we are the only ones who bear burdens of this particular nature, but as I examine the business world, I find similar successes and failure when the proper leadership principles are weighed. One area we probably all dread is dealing with conflict within the culture of our organization. Here are some of the principles that should help alleviate some of the stress:
1. Live Above Reproach
This is the umbrella principle that qualifies or disqualifies a pastor. I heard one man accuse another not too long ago of living a life that was above reproach. In the back of my mind I thought, "what a great victory! The fact that his words and actions would solicit this description!" Leader, study the word, follow the Lord, and have an answer ready for when you are questioned so that you might be described as "above reproach!"
2. Refuse to Mount the Offensive
OK, I'm not suggesting that you never pursue wrong. This principle swings into the accusation realm. When you find yourself backed into a corner, instinct is to take up arms and fight back. DONT! (Jesus didn't...) When the dust settles, your testimony will reflect someone who allowed the darts of accusation to be thrown with grace and mercy. Hurts in the moment, but lends toward a big win in the end. You may never get an apology, but you will be able to sleep at night.
3. All that is said must be true, but not all that is true must be said.
The Great Gatsby quoted, "Apologies aren't always because you're wrong, but often because you value a relationship more than your ego." This statement will always ring true. True courage is eating crow for the sake of a soul. The taste of crow is bitter to the extreme, but the aftertaste is eternally sweet. Speak truth, but speak slowly. Refuse to share what God has not given you liberty to reveal.
4. Miles and mistakes do not a relationship break; people do.
You've heard it said, " I can't be your friend anymore because ____________." Great leaders often struggle with owning every mistake as their own, and deeply yearn to DO SOMETHING or SAY SOMETHING to "fix" the problem. But it was not the mistake the broke the relationship; that was a choice by a person. You say, "but I feel bad!" Here is what you should examine: The accuser of the brethren only recalls past mistakes you have already settled with the Lord. The Holy Spirit convicts of present sin. Is it right with you and the Lord? If yes, then stop letting the devil throw false guilt into your mind.
5. God cultivates the ground, and waters the seed; Your job is only to plant.
The ground of confrontational hearts is often cold and hard. Any farmer knows this type of soil must be tilled and cultivated in order for seed to take root. The seed is good, but the environment is not prepared. Leaders love to play "Holy Spirit" in an attempt to achieve faster results. Dear minister/leader, you are not responsible for how the truth is received, you are only accountable for the sowing process. The more a heart rejects truth, the harder it gets.
6. Attack on practice is not attack of person.
As leaders, when someone questions our process of progress, because that is "our baby" we often assume the attack as a personal blight on our character. I have heard leaders suggest "If you attack that, you're attacking him, and therefore you attack me." Though our systems are built on our personalities, we must separate our processes from our personality so that when improvements must be made, we do not make them personal. When addressing a practice, it is always good to keep in mind that at one time, this was a revolutionary idea! ...just not anymore.
7. Off limits for conversation, off limits for improvement.
For a pastor, the sermons is "the main event" of a church worship experience. Our staff often feel awkward making suggestions for improvement because they did not deliver here. But criticism most often is constructive when passed from the foundation to the head. If your foundation cannot discuss, it will crumble, and the head will fall. Create a culture where everything is open for conversation...of course principle #6 will have to be in effect for this to be successful.
8. Marry You Mission, Date Your Model.
YES! I get to date a model!!! OK...maybe not quite. The mission of your organization or "DNA" should not change if it is solid. This one thing is off limits for discussion. The mission is the lens through which we view and make all other decisions. If your mission is clear, there will be no need to micromanage as your staff will align everything with the mission. The model is ever changing! Thank God for the absence of flannel graph and pipe organs in today's model.
9. Everything Rises and Falls On Leadership
I grew up hearing this, and how true?! If you want to see more rising than falling, check your pride at the door. Guess what? We all make mistakes! No one is immune. Sometimes the immortality mindset kicks in, and we over compensate for our insecurities with pride. This poison water will flow directly into the culture of your organization, crippling it from the bottom, up.
10. Call For Constant Course Correction.
Jump in your car, aim it one direction, take your hands off the wheel, and just gas it. Nah, that won't work....try this: Get in your sail boat, aim it North, hands off the wheel, and just go. Well, that's a bad idea too. Maybe one more? See if you can get that kite to fly high without guiding the string.... Notice something? A good steward of a vehicle must constantly evaluate the direction. Wind of society, doctrine, and culture has a tendency to shift and move us week to week, day to day, mood to mood. If you notice a recurring problem in your organization, evaluate the source. The list of issues are endless, especially in the church world....poor spirit, disengaged people, revolving door of staff, poor facilities, no growth.... you see in church, we don't always see the problems until the money runs out. As long as we can finance what we're doing, we will continue to do it. Then, when money runs low, red lights go off. As a leader in any capacity, examine what is working and what is wasted energy. Constantly correct to stay on course.