Have you ever been in a place of conflict in your ministry? Have you been in conflict with a pastor, staff member, or a church member?
If you answered yes to either one of those questions, you are not alone. There are times in ministry when people may not agree on how things should be done.
Conflict with your pastor can be one of the most stressful times in your ministry, which in return can have negative effects on your ministry, health, family and more.
While serving at my current church, I have been through two pastors, an interim and currently, we have a second interim.
During the tenure of my first pastor, I was fresh out of college and eager to serve the Lord with a passion that nobody could quench.
Unknown to me, there were problems brewing between the pastor and the leadership of the church, which changed the attitude of the pastor.
Things for me and the student ministry were going great, we were growing and students were being saved.
Then it happened. I began to hear the complaints of the people and I, for the first time, listened to them.
I became a sounding board for the people who didn’t like what was going on with the pastor.
At this point, I had been at the church for three years and I could not stand anything the pastor did.
I had listened to the crowd for so long that I was with them crying, “Crucify him!!!”
At this point, I had lost my focus on student ministry and started focusing on everything that the pastor was doing wrong.
My ministry was struggling, my mental health was struggling, my wife was struggling, I was struggling!
Many of my friends would tell me to fire up the resume and get out, but I knew that God had called me to this church and I needed to grow deep roots.
I stayed. Everyone knew that the pastor was on his way out, but he was making my life miserable on the way.
All of this came to a crashing stop on a hot July Sunday when the deacons stepped in and said we have to work this out.
No longer was this a church-versus-pastor issue; it was now a pastor-versus-student pastor issue, and I was right in the middle of it.
After a long and painful meeting with everyone, things were settled, and we moved on.
A couple of months later the pastor was called to another church, and it was over. I had no idea how much stress I was under until he left and I had to see my doctor due to stress-related issues.
What did God teach me through that journey?
If you are in this situation in your ministry, which is more common than you think, here are some lessons from my journey that you can apply to your situation.
- Remember what you were called to do at that church.
I was called to my church to be the student pastor, not the mediator between disgruntled people and the pastor. I should have directed the questions and comments to the pastor. For example, “Bro. Garrett, I really do not like the way that the pastor uses the NIV while he preaches!” “Bro. Joe, I understand your concern, and I would really encourage you to talk one on one with the pastor about that.” Many times, if people would go to the person one on one and address their concerns the issue is usually handled (Matthew 18:15-20). I have to ask myself, “Does this involve student ministry?” If the answer is no, I have to stay focused on student ministry.
- Have an open line of communication with your pastor.
Go to lunch, go to Walmart, go visiting, just spend time with your pastor. Pray for your pastor daily. If you have a great line of communication and a great relationship with him, it will help you work out any of the little issues that can fester and grow.
- Bring in a mediator.
If there are issues that need to be addressed that you cannot work out one on one, bring in a mediator. Ask the chairman of deacons or a personnel committee member to come in and work things out between you. So many times, it is a simple misunderstanding that causes the issue. Make sure you’re prepared to own up to your own issues in these meeting though.
- Protect your spouse from the issues.
One of my biggest mistakes was sharing all the negative struggles with my wife. This mistake gave her a bad attitude toward the pastor as well. This mistake has left scars on both of our hearts. Find a friend outside of the church that you can share with. Talk to them about what’s going on and not your spouse or other church members.
- Don’t let stress at church negatively impact your health.
I was in a bad place because of stress, and I didn’t realize it until I had issues. I have a good friend that had this same thing happen to him and because of the stress he took six months away from full-time ministry and took a secular job at a hardware store. He healed during this time and now is serving full-time stronger than ever.
Just remember this: If the Apostle Paul had a conflict with a ministry partner, we will have conflict, but we can work through it to enjoy great ministry. God bless!