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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.