Dif­fi­cult peo­ple are a fact of life. That per­son who cut you off on the road this morn­ing, or the per­son who was rude to you for no rea­son. Some­times if feels like you’re the only sane per­son trav­el­ling up a one-​way road full of insane lunatics. It’s more dif­fi­cult when these peo­ple exist in our church sphere — invad­ing a place where grace should be the first order. How is it that we deal with a dif­fi­cult per­son, and what makes the per­son “dif­fi­cult” in the first place?

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Firstly, let’s change the lan­guage we use slightly. A dif­fi­cult per­son is almost always cre­ated by con­flict, and as an over­ar­ch­ing part of the human con­di­tion, con­flict is inevitable. As a con­se­quence of the fall, con­flict has become one of the com­mon bar­ri­ers to min­istry that we expe­ri­ence in the church. It is imper­a­tive that lead­ers under­stand the most com­mon sources of con­flict in our artis­tic teams, and some strate­gies to help avoid or dis­arm them effec­tively and biblically.

1. Con­flict as the result of poor communication.

We all know that mis-​communication can be the source of con­flict. When peo­ple are given insuf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion, incor­rect infor­ma­tion, 2nd-​3rd-​4th hand infor­ma­tion, it is easy for con­flict to rear its head. Like­wise, when a vision is com­mu­ni­cated poorly or with­out suf­fi­cient detail, it can cause dis­il­lu­sion­ment and con­flict. Con­versely, when feed­back chan­nels close, and lead­er­ship stops pay­ing atten­tion to the thoughts, ideas, feel­ings and responses of the mem­ber­ship of the team, con­flict is also likely to arise.

Tips:

  • Com­mu­ni­cate well, com­mu­ni­cate deeply, com­mu­ni­cate often.
  • Cast vision often, and encour­age your peo­ple to speak into the vision as they catch it.
  • Make sure that pro­ce­dural infor­ma­tion (eg. the song-​list for next Sun­day etc) is dis­trib­uted in a timely manner.
  • Ensure that you are always avail­able for feed­back from team mem­bers. Cre­ate a pro­ce­dure for this if pos­si­ble, and lis­ten to them and their concerns.


2. Con­flict as the result of com­pet­ing ideologies.

This usu­ally comes as a result of the pre­vi­ous point, when a team leader fails to com­mu­ni­cate vision clearly or effec­tively. We find our­selves in a posi­tion where team mem­bers are work­ing towards dif­fer­ent out­comes. Con­flict arises when we need to “cor­rect” a team mem­bers’ focus. It can also be a source of con­flict when peo­ple with dif­fer­ent denom­i­na­tional back­grounds join our team, bring­ing with them slightly dif­fer­ent the­o­log­i­cal and doc­tri­nal biases.

Tips:

  • Be clear when cast­ing vision, and do it often. Use ques­tions that give oppor­tu­nity for team mem­bers to reflect back to you the vision in their own words, so you can ascer­tain if they are grasp­ing it correctly.
  • Use lan­guage in rehearsals that pro­motes and reit­er­ates your mis­sion goals.
  • Spend time with new team mem­bers, bring­ing them “up to speed” with the par­tic­u­lar goals and objec­tive of your min­istry group.

3. Con­flict as the result of com­pet­ing per­sonal preferences.

In the cre­ative arts, there are as many pref­er­ences as there are peo­ple, and your ser­vice team is no dif­fer­ent. We have been cre­ated with dif­fer­ent tastes and pref­er­ences, and this should colour our wor­ship, rather than become a source of con­flict. It is impor­tant for team mem­bers to real­ize the dif­fer­ence between “pref­er­ence” and “truth” (ie, just because I like a par­tic­u­lar style doesn’t mean it is the only way or the right way to do things.).

We need to learn to respect each oth­ers pref­er­ences, and allow that to broaden us, rather than be restricted by the pref­er­ences of the most vocal team members.

Tips:

  • Encour­age team mem­bers to be gen­uinely inter­ested in each other’s per­sonal pref­er­ences, and encour­age each team mem­ber to share their inter­ests with the team.
  • Be clear on the mis­sion goals you are try­ing to achieve, and com­mu­ni­cate how your musical/​artistic choices sup­port that goal, rather than per­sonal preference.
  • Encour­age your team to pray often for the con­gre­ga­tion that they serve. By focus­ing on the needs of the con­gre­ga­tion as a whole, team mem­bers will be less inclined to hijack the ser­vice of wor­ship with per­sonal pref­er­ences.

4. Con­flict as the result of overde­vel­oped egos

Every sea­soned leader has come up against this at one time or another: a per­son who causes con­flict out of a need for recog­ni­tion, or a desire to lead. One of the strug­gles of lead­er­ship is how to deal with peo­ple like this in love. A bib­li­cal per­spec­tive of our­selves, and a sub­mis­sive atti­tude will encour­age team mem­bers to avoid this type of conflict.

Tips

  • Fos­ter an atti­tude of sub­mis­sion in your team, by exhort­ing team mem­bers to lay their gifts before God each and every rehearsal or ser­vice. Keep­ing a Christ-​focused per­spec­tive of min­istry will pro­vide some insu­la­tion against overde­vel­oped egos.
  • Praise and encour­age team mem­bers for who they are, rather than what they can do wher­ever pos­si­ble. Give God the glory for gifts, and encour­age the per­son for humil­ity and use­able spir­its.

5. Con­flict as the result of under­de­vel­oped team

Nobody wants to be on a team where they are under­val­ued, or where they don’t feel like they belong. Tak­ing time to build your sense of “team” will result in many ben­e­fits. One of the great­est bless­ings of min­istry is that God allows us to serve shoul­der to shoul­der with peo­ple that we care deeply about. This is at the core of com­mu­nity, and is a char­ac­ter­is­tic we should strive for in our teams.

Tips

  • Encour­age shar­ing amongst your team, and do not neglect team devo­tions or bible study in rehearsal.
  • Sched­ule times for social activ­i­ties, where the team can inter­act with­out the pres­sure of ser­vice, and can truly get to know each other.
  • Spend time pray­ing for each other, shar­ing prayer requests, and cel­e­brat­ing answers to prayer as a team.
  • Sched­ule time for pos­i­tive debrief after ser­vices, where mem­bers of the team can share what they felt, how they acted, and what they saw God do in the ser­vice.

The over-​arching prin­ci­ple here is that of sub­mis­sion. First and fore­most, we each have a respon­si­bil­ity to sub­mit to God. If this is out of focus, then the con­flict in our team can­not be resolved. We need to exhort our team mem­bers to con­stantly sub­mit to God and the lead­ing of the Holy Spirit, for the good of our min­istry. Sec­ondly, we need to sub­mit to the direc­tions given to us by those in posi­tions of author­ity (Pas­tor, team leader etc). Finally, we need to sub­mit (read: defer) to each other in min­istry. This allows us to put each other first, lis­ten to alter­nate per­spec­tives, uti­lize each other’s strengths, and work together effec­tively and productively.


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Finally this: Pray often. The team that prays together often will find their min­istry pas­sion­ate and fruit­ful long after other teams have dried up and run each other into the ground in con­flict. Stay con­nected in prayer to the Life-​Giver, and rely upon the Holy Spirit to dis­arm con­flict between you.


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