Running a church staffing company gives me the privilege (it really IS a privilege) of hearing lots of stories every week from people in ministry.
People just like you.
And most everyone has worked with or for a jerk at some point in their ministry.
It's funny. I hear stories about jerks in ministry nearly every week, and occasionally even hear directly from the jerks themselves. How do I know? Well, they're pretty easy to spot.
(Stop name calling, Todd. That's not very spiritual. Jesus wouldn't like you calling people jerks.)
OK... valid point. Let me first define what I'm talking about. Here's the dictionary definition of a jerk: 'a contemptibly obnoxious person'.
So let me re-phrase. Have you ever worked with a contemptibly obnoxious person in ministry?
We all have.
In fact, we've all probably been a contemptibly obnoxious person at one time or another.
I know I have. Once or twice.
But here's the first truth when it comes to 'jerks' in church leadership: Jerks are a primary reason so many staff members move one.
Conflict. Personal conflict. Personal conflict with a contemptibly obnoxious person. A jerk.
Those are the stories I hear every week. And they break my heart.
Personal conflict is one of the biggest reasons staff people leave churches. (Of course, they say publicly that it's because God has spoken to them and called them to a new place... but deep down it's the need to get away from personal conflict).
Which leads me to truth #2: Sometimes the jerks leave, and sometimes they stay.
I talk with many people that have left a church to get away from the contemptibly obnoxious person. And I've met quite a few contemptibly obnoxious people who have left a church staff either on their own or forcibly.
Sometimes jerks stay at a church for a long time. Sometimes the jerks hold the power. And I've seen a good number that have driven off numerous staff members. Other times, jerks get hired onto a church staff, exhibit their jerkiness, and leave (one way or another) shortly thereafter.
Why am I writing this? Because this has affected nearly everyone I've ever known in ministry. Personal interaction is key to ministry. And when there is a conflict it can greatly diminish your effectiveness.
So... what to do?
The first thing to do is to be sure that you check your own eye for logs.
I mean... maybe YOU'RE the jerk.
Here are nine quick questions to determine your level of jerkiness. They are great questions to think on as you start your Monday. (source)
- Do you try to get ahead through intimidation?
- Do you pin the blame for your failure on someone else?
- Do you take credit for others' successes?
- Do you always talk about how bad things are?
- Do you push policies that benefit you or your department ahead of those that will help the company?
- Do you withhold critical information to make your rivals look bad?
- Do you say no when people ask you to help?
- Do you practice vice while preaching virtue?
- Do you try to block progress by complicating a simple solution?
Answer these questions honestly.
We're all jerks to a certain degree.
No one is perfect.
But if you find that you are constantly surrounded by conflict and misery in your ministry, chances are you are either dealing with a jerk, or you are one.
Chemistry is important in church staff relationships. And lack of chemistry at the staff level can stunt or kill the effectiveness of a church. In order to have a long, fruitful ministry it is important to be in a Godly relationship with those around us. Sometimes we have to move on. Other times, we find that the problem is more in ourselves than in others. That, we can fix. But it takes humility... and time.
God, please give us wisdom when it comes to our staff relationships. Help us not to become contemptibly obnoxious people. Forgive us for our jerkiness. Reveal in us areas that we need to improve. Help us to be humble enough to ask forgiveness when necessary. And show us how to best handle the difficult people in our own lives, in our own families, and with those that we work with so that we can finish the race well.
One last thought...
Have you seen the Farmer's Insurance ads with the tagline: "We know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two"? After interviewing (literally) thousands of church staff candidates, I'd love to bring my expertise to help you in your church's next hire. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in the leadership of your church is to hire a contemptibly obnoxious person to be a part of your ministry team. Sometimes they show their true self in a job interview. Sometimes they can be a bit more covert. Interviewing thousands of candidates have given us the ability to sniff out the 'jerkish' among us with an amazing degree of accuracy. Seriously though... hiring a new person on your team is a HUGE thing. I would love to grab some coffee over zoom with you in the next week to talk about how I can help you find a great, healthy, long-term fit for your church's job opening. Let's schedule some time right now!