Dos and Don’ts: Working with People

I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse to say that I have been through numerous staffing and volunteer changes since I entered ministry seven years ago.  In that short time our church staff has undergone almost a complete overhaul, but every change has been God-ordained and helped push us in the right direction.  Each circumstance was different, but all of them were for the advancement of God’s kingdom (sometimes God divides to multiply His kingdom).  One left to take care of an ailing mother, two left for different positions at other churches, one moved on to finish a doctorate degree, and one retired.  The greatest thing is that they all moved on because they were listening to God’s voice, they were peaceful partings, and the transitions to new staff members were very smooth.

On the other hand, in the realm of kingdom servants, team members, and volunteers, I’ve had the opportunity and to welcome and the misfortune to discharge people.  In the last three years I have implemented a successful audition process which has nearly doubled my team, raised the bar of musicianship, and opened the doors to many people that probably wouldn’t have joined otherwise.  It is always a challenge and a joy to see who God will choose to be a part of our ministry at LSCC and there are a few things I’ve learned from good and bad experience that can define that process more clearly.

-Pray continually, asking God to give you discretion (1 Tim. 2:1-3)
-Have a defined and clear process (I use a process put together by Jason Hatley of worshipleaderinsights.com)
-There is a season for everything..even volunteering or serving…take on the notion that it’s okay to take a break or serve somewhere else from time to time (Eccl. 3:1)
-Follow the apostles example and choose new teammates as a team (Acts 15:22)
-Make volunteering a big deal in your congregation…make sure people know that the door is always open (market it well, communicate continually, celebrate successes)
-Aim for attracting volunteers that are solid Christians and are called into the ministry because of their gifts (1 Cor. 12)
-On the other hand, don’t limit your volunteers based on their spiritual walk…go in with the idea that you are there to minister to and grow people…not everyone God sends to us to serve will be at the same place in their relationship with God (Rom. 14:1 and 15:1, 1 Cor. 8:7-12)
-Create a number of entry points for volunteering
-Communicate your church and ministry vision continually (make sure everyone know why they are doing what they are doing)
-Don’t be afraid to remove someone that is causing strife, is not focused on the right things, or is living in a way that reflects Christ poorly (Mt. 18:15-17)
-Design a covenant that clearly defines your expectations, then review that often and hold people accountable

In the unfortunate case where we as leaders are forced to deal with tough situations or even dismiss volunteers or staff members I would suggest these things:

-Pray and ask God’s direction, don’t do anything in haste (Phil. 4:6)
-Make sure your leadership and team have got your back (Eccl. 4:12)
-Don’t procrastinate, deal with issues quickly and discretely (Mt. 5:25)
-Always, always administer grace, love, and forgiveness (Lk. 6:37)
-Make sure you have a good case with written proof or witnesses before you let a person go…even better have a biblical reason for dismissal (Mt. 18:15-17)
-Do what is best for your team’s morale
-Over-communicate and do so in person (I’ve learned that text’s, emails, and even phone calls can be a barrier to good communication…I always deal with issues face to face even though my natural inclination is to do it the passive way)
-Check your pride at the door…sometimes our stubbornness or lack of love and concern for others can cause us to close our ears and harden our hearts.  I was told once that I should actively listen, repeat back what I hear a person saying, then wait some more before I respond (Js. 1:19)
-If it is possible, when you let someone go or “give them a break” do so on peaceable terms or with some possible steps of reconciliation or improvement. (Rom. 12:18)

Unfortunately, I’ve learned most of these things the hard way and I wish I’d have been able to take a ministry crash course or purchased that elusive little “How to do everything right in ministry” handbook before I answered the ministry call.  Right before I entered ministry, I asked a minister and his wife some things I should know before I started and the woman told me to remember that ministry isn’t easy because it involves people and people are a mess.  That is so true…I’m a mess, you are a mess, and everyone God puts in our paths is, was, or will be a mess…that’s why need need Him so much.  That’s the essence of the Gospel…that we are a mess, we can’t fix ourselves, and we have to look to and trust in the only One that is able to do that.  I’m always reminding myself when dealing with people that God loves and sent His Son for them too, that there is always more to the situation or person than meets the eye, and that we can either capitalize on those weaknesses and allow God to complete us, or try to do things in our own strength and time and have to learn lessons the hard way.  I’d prefer the former, so I will continue to pray with and for you that He will allow us the grace and love to do this spectacular work called ministry right where you are, with the people He’s put around you, and in a manner that brings Him all the honor and glory!

Grace be with you,

Joshua Dickey

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