“Pastor, we’ve decided to move on.” These are some of the most difficult words that you, as a ministry leader, will ever hear—especially when they come from people you have lived, laughed and dreamed with.
It’s painful when we hear that people no longer want to be a part of our ministries. It’s additionally painful when they leave and don’t take the time to tell us why they’re leaving, where they’re going, or what we could possibly do to repair any damage in the relationship.
I wish that no one had ever left my congregation. I wish that everyone who has visited our church had fallen in love with us, gotten pumped up about our vision, found their niche in relationships and service, grown spiritually and stayed with us throughout their entire lifetime. That hasn’t been the case.
I was watching my friend Parker the other night. He is an incredible student leader and a talented young man.
He was working lights at our Saturday night service during our "You Own the Weekend" series. He was killing it, super passionate, incredibly creative—even his parents came to see his work!
I looked around the room and was so happy—adults were around talking to students and generally keeping order—but in most cases, students were serving in a ton of areas.
Got me thinking—when did this happen? I can think of a time not too long ago when we didn’t have students serving in any significant way. When did students really start serving at our services like this? When did Parker move from attendee to ingenious lighting guy extraordinaire?
As a leader, there are many times I feel like the mediator between opposing viewpoints. I’m steering towards a common, shared vision, but there are a myriad of opinions in how we accomplish the vision.
I’m not afraid of conflict on a team. In fact, I think it can be healthy for the team if handled correctly. It keeps tension from building unnecessarily, simply because emotions and opinions are hidden rather than addressed. It brings new ideas to the table and welcomes input from everyone. When conflict is ignored or stifled, it makes people feel devalued and controlled.
When faced with conflict on my team, I realize the way I handle it will go a long way toward allowing the disagreement to work for the overall good. In fact, I must learn to better manage the conflicts rather than attempt to kill them.
Here are seven thoughts for managing conflict on a team:
When I was learning to drive, I lived in the country. Roads were narrow, one lane in each direction.
One of the first things you learn when driving in tight quarters is to keep your eye on the right edge of the road. The problem is that you tend to steer where you are looking. If your eyes are on the headlights coming at you, chances are high that you will steer your car right into the oncoming traffic.
What does this have to do with church leadership? What your leadership team focuses on and where you spend your energy will impact your entire congregation.
I will forever remember as though we were standing there now, as you read these words.
The place: The walking bridge connecting the student parking lot to the bustling campus of Oral Roberts University, where the grandiose buildings and space age architecture were a daily reminder to the thousands of us students of Dr. Oral Roberts' charge to “Make no small plans here.”
The time: 25 years ago.
The experience: A life-changing encounter that would set the course for my spiritual future in ways I would never have imagined when I woke up almost late for class that beautiful spring morning in Tulsa.
With a mere six weeks remaining before graduation, and with a dream in my heart far bigger than myself, I was ready to go from this incredible place of preparation to be used by God to fulfill the Great Commission and reach our world for Christ.