The Assault on the Ministry Family, Part IV: Flesh.
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Every Sunday morning, your minister (or youth minister, worship leader, or other ministry staff person in the church) stands before a tough crowd. There are some smiles (and boy, are they ever welcome), but as a general rule he or she is facing an audience of blank, disinterested faces. Sometimes there are even frowns. As he or she attempts to engage the audience with words of encouragement, a solid sermon, or an invitation to clap their hands during the song, many people are standing or sitting with their arms crossed and eyes focused on the screens on the stage (or the screens of their phones and tablets). Occasionally he or she will say something funny and earn laughter, or there is a touching story or prayer request, but as a general rule, the facial expressions stay the same.
When the service is over, he or she will stand at the back of the church and speak with the people exiting the building. He may hear, "Good job," or "Have a great day," or (a personal favorite) "The drums and electric guitars were too loud today," but most of the congregation will just smile, exchange pleasantries, shake hands, and leave. He may ask a few trusted individuals (usually a spouse or another staff person) how the service or event went, and sometimes the staff person will hear positive or negative feedback in the next team or staff meeting.
The staff member continues to go about their ministry. They fulfill their responsibilities, they juggle ministry and family and personal time. They feel the Lord has blessed them with the opportunity to serve in their particular congregation.
And then there is a poor evaluation from out of no where. Or an email or letter complaining about something that should have been said or done (or hasn't been said or done). There is a family threatening to leave the church because the church doesn't offer the program they feel is vital to their spiritual well-being (after all, it worked so well at their last church). There is a volunteer meeting that goes extremely sour and the ministry staff person is left shell-shocked and bewildered.
We've seen it time and time again. The fresh and young preachers and youth ministers straight out of Bible college or seminary are sent packing less than a year into their first ministry. Their new ideas and programs are not working for the older and established congregation. The congregation likes things the way they are and the way they were. They don't have the patience to help groom this new minister into a stronger leader.
The worship leader is told that his or her song selections are too modern and the people want more hymns and tried and true songs added to the worship service. They ask for less noise and more reverence (a.k.a. less rock, more adult contemporary). They also don't appreciate the piercings and hair styles. After all, they say, this is a church service and not a concert.
The children's minister is told that her latest activity was a complete disaster. Even though half of her parent volunteers didn't show up at the last minute to help facilitate the event, it still falls on her shoulders. She is later called into a private meeting between the parents of a little girl and the church leadership because she corrected the girl's behavior at the last lock-in. Never mind that the little girl was being unsafe, it embarrassed her and hurt her feelings to be called out in front of the other children.
It doesn't matter what profession you are in, how old you are, how much money you do or do not make--criticism hurts. And there are times when criticism is valid, is fair, and is well-deserved. Perhaps the staff person was completely in the wrong, failed to meet fair expectations, or was out of line. But, whether the criticism is deserved or not, it can take only one negative comment to completely destroy a person. We all know the sting of rejection and we certainly do not appreciate it when it is unsolicited or is delivered with hate or bad motives.
Your ministry staff is painfully aware that they are not perfect. They know that they stand before their congregations each week as humans. They struggle with sins, they have issues, and they are no better than anyone else in their congregation. They feel the guilt, the remorse, the shame of not being able to live up to the expectations of their church families. Satan tells the ministers "if your congregation only knew ___________ about you, you would lose all credibility" or "you're not ever going to be good enough" or "who does so-and-so think they are coming in here complaining about your ministry? They don't know anything about being a minister grumble grumble."
The staff shoulders the huge responsibility of not only ensuring customer satisfaction of their congregations, but the eternal repercussions of not introducing their communities to the love and freedom found in Christ. They recognize that not only are they to make their congregation happy and feel at home, they want to ensure they have done everything in their power to provide them an opportunity to meet Jesus that day. Parents realize the importance and necessity of their presence in their personal children's lives. Imagine having 300+ people's souls to tend to on a regular basis?
The results of the ministry staff's job performance can have eternal consequences.
And they are well aware of this sobering truth.
Perhaps a congregation member has a complaint about an issue within the ministry. Let's pretend there is a specific issue with the morning coffee station. Rather than running to the staff to complain about the line bottle necking at the sugar bowl, perhaps that member could volunteer to be a part of the solution. Often the very things people complain about are the areas they could be assisting the staff person with.
I have only seen the movie Taken one time, but there is a famous line from the movie that has stuck with me (and everyone else) after watching the film. Liam Neeson's character is searching for his kidnapped daughter and he is on the phone speaking to the men who have taken her. He's making it very clear that he will find these men and he will get his daughter back, or there will be consequences. He begins his conversation by stating:
"I can tell you I don't have money... but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career."
Dear Church, it is time for us to rally the troops, sound the alarm, wave the flag, and stand with our ministers. These men and women cannot physically, mentally, or emotionally do all of the work by themselves. They need men and women to stand in their gaps and fill in the places where they fall short. They need the wise and experienced and the young and the modern. The staff needs the people who possess the skills that they lack to come and stand firm in the faith with them.
It is a proven fact that one person can only reach x-number of people. Your minister can only perform a certain amount of work well. After he or she has reached their maximum capacity, their work output is severely limited. Add any additional stress, trauma, or personal issues, and you have a recipe for burn out.
To be continued. . .