I made a significant mistake early on in my ministry career. I made several decisions that were unpopular — but that was not my mistake. We are going to make decisions that don’t please everyone. That is a good case of the normals.
My mistake was in recruiting some of the individuals who were the most vehemently opposed and publically oppositional to the changes that I was making. My mistake came when I thought about the old axiom, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Of course I don’t want to view these individuals as my enemies by any stretch of the imagination. However, I thought that the principle could apply to bringing people close to me that were opposed to me so that I could either keep a close eye on them or seek to influence and win them over.
Disunity in Ministry
Deep in my heart I thought that my powers of persuasion and my powers of relational savvy could win them over to see that what we were doing and how we were changing things was worthwhile. I simply thought, naively so, that having them participate in the ministry could possibly bring them to “my side.” Things couldn’t have been further from the truth. I recruited a publically disunifying figure. I brought them close to the sheep. I brought them close to other volunteers. I made a mistake.
Here are some of the results of that mistake. Each Monday morning I would see an email that was about the length of a book from this disunifying volunteer. They were fault finding, nitpicking, and critical of nearly everything that we were doing. This email was crafted in such a way that it truly necessitated a response. That was sucking energy from an already full plate.
Relationships with Others
This individual was not going to be persuaded to see the positives that were taking place because their heart and their nose were both out of joint. They were not going to be won over and nothing that I could do was going to change that. In addition, every individual in the church has relationships with other people. The last thing that we want to do is to elevate someone who is disunifying to a higher level of authority or influence within the ministry.
If they are disunifying, keep them away from the sheep. Don’t recruit them. This individual was now placed in a position of prominence as a small group leader. This individual was not a room leader and they were not in leadership; however, other church members could go to this person and ask them about their perspective about what was going on in children’s ministry. Remember, everyone has friends and usually people ask questions of their close friends rather than jumping several layers and going directly to the children’s pastor. It would be best, of course, for someone to come directly to me and ask me a question about children’s ministry. Guess what, that typically doesn’t happen.
So, when you recruit disunifying people who have relationships within the church and other people come to them instead of you for questions, they are going to get an earful of why things are bad. You are now providing an opportunity for this cancer to spread. That is a bold term but I want to let you know that recruiting and elevating disunifying individuals is quite possibly one of the most dangerous moves you could make as a leader in ministry.
Do not recruit disunifying people. Do not let them near the sheep.