Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Being Collared (4) - Comings and Goings

Finding yourself in a place of authority (AKA 'in ministry') means that you are faced with the knotty issue that is the day-to-day 'coming and going.of church members. This has nothing to do with the little used 'hire and fire' function so rarely used by clergy (unless of course it's sheep stealing and chasing people off).

Here are some helpful hints which, if taken up with both hands, integrity and a heart that seeks reconciliation and growth for all involved, will pay dividends. They go like this:

  • If you want someone to do a job in church, ask them, but never beg, if they say 'No' then accept it.
  • If someone wants to do a job in church and you feel they are wrong for it - dialogue and if still unconvinced, say 'No' but, unless you are convinced otherwise. in church rather than 'NO' there's also 'not yet' and 'not until' and (best of all) 'let's try it together and see how it goes!' But if you're convinced - stick to your guns (but be honest about it).
  • If someone threatens to leave, or offers their resignation, accept it - unconditionally and irrevocably - if they threaten once, they'll do it again - don't hand over the power. Send them with a blessing.
  • If someone comes and tells you God has Told them to leave then, unless God has told you differently, support it and send them with a blessing and tell the place they're heading for that that's the case - it cuts out conflict and distrust before it can be sown.
  • If someone comes to you from another church then tell them you'll contact their former minister to let them know they've arrived safely. If they say they don't want them to know where they've gone (or even that they have gone) - tell them you have to contact the minister as a courtesy. People who leave without saying they're going will do the same with you when they decide to move (and they will).
A recent conversation with the minister who was telling me how much they hated comings and goings and yet, ironically, was also complaining that they were in a 'static church'. How odd, after all if there's no comings and goings then what you have is . . . . (Use your own words for it). It was obvious that they capitulated whenever the resignation card was played and because of it, they'd handed over any authority they might have had. It was also obvious that they were so needy that they had pleaded with people to 'help them out' and in doing so had placed those people into a position of power.

I've been that man and have to own up and say that I have lived in fear of people going to such an extent that I put others to the sword rather than draw a line and say a heartfelt thank you for their oft proffered resignation. They knew I was living in fear and capitalised and manipulated the situation so completely that things I wanted to do, no scratch that, felt called to do - were put to one side rather than offend or lose them. I was in bondage to them and it was only later that I realised how much they were working for the enemy rather than for God or for good. I realised how my weakness had allowed satan to get a grip and oppress the church when I should have been a stronger, and more faithful, man and repentance and renewal and a determination to say 'never again' have replaced that fear.

The key is to live in peace but this peace does not mean we ignore the facts before us and permit people to damage the work of the church by pusillanimously rolling over because of our fear. Perfect love casts out fear and that same love gives us the ability to speak the truth in it too. That which we do outside of faith is sin - so let's work at being just that little more sinless shall we?

1 comment:

UKViewer said...

Well said! Being subject to blackmail isn't the prettiest place to be - so if they threaten to resign, say OK, resignation accepted and wish them well.

I know that it took me months and great pain to leave my last parish, because I loved it there. It wasn't anything to do with them, but external factors that did for me.
They understood and I know that I left in love and peace and can go back anytime to visit without any ill feeling.

But I've seen and experienced the sort of thing that you describe, where emotional blackmail was used and it caused real ill feeling as the person doing it, was dropping hints about the incumbent and his treatment of them all around the place. I wouldn't listen to the complaints, and refused to become involved in the press gang that they were trying to round up.

In fact, they were well aware that I was a friend of the incumbent and my loyalty was to the greater good of the parish, not to the division that was being caused by their actions.

In the end, it was resolved when the incumbent faced it down head on, when a complaint was made to the Bishop. There was some external mediation, a reduction in the ministry tasks of the complainer and the Incumbent was able to reconcile and we moved on.

You give sound advice, some will dislike it because "we don't do that sort of thing in the church" but the reality is that not doing it, is more disruptive of relationships and mission than any other cause that I know.