No matter where you serve, you can contribute to your congregation’s health by the way you behave and function within the congregation. No, you don’t necessarily have control over whether or not your congregation is healthy. However, it is important for any church leader to function in a way that contributes to health and not to dysfunction.
As a church leader, how do I treat people in our congregation?
A few suggestions:
Be a person who can be trusted and not a manipulator. Church leaders who practice manipulation use people instead of loving them. A minister might use a favorite elder to get his way. Another might use a “prominent” family within a church to run interference while this person stays in the shadows. These behaviors do not contribute to the health of a congregation.
Be a person who is known for treating people right. This one can be slippery. Some church leaders seem to believe that if they say something enough times it becomes real. I may talk about how much I love this church. However, my behavior is the ultimate test. How have I treated my co-workers? How have I treated fellow ministers or fellow elders? How are people in the congregation treated who lead various ministries?
Be a person who takes responsibility for what you say and do. Far too many people operate in the shadows. Someone calls an elder one evening. She says that she wants to remain anonymous but she and a number of other people are fed up with the youth minister. They are threatening to leave.
Now this is the first time this elder has ever heard about any problem with the youth minister. In fact, three weeks earlier they had commended this youth minister for excellent, mature leadership on a mission trip.
This elder is not sure what to do. He calls several another elder and a minister. They each contribute something negative about this youth minister. They encourage him to speak up. At the next elders’ meeting this elder shared his concerns. He was visibly agitated as he spoke. Meanwhile, the elder and minister whom he contacted earlier remain silent and anonymous.
Church leaders who contribute to the health of the congregation tell the truth. They come out of the shadows and own what they believe. There is something very unhealthy about a minister or elder who will be candid on the phone but in the meeting choose to remain silent while another is used to convey something difficult.
Be a person who refuses to speak to others in a manner that is curt and abrupt. No Christian leader has the right to speak to another in a way that is demeaning or humiliating. This is true even if you are right. Being right does not give one a pass toward being insulting to an administrative assistant, a young minister, or anyone else. Being right does not mean that I have permission to handle any situation the way I choose.
So what are we modeling? What do we value? The people with whom we work with can tell us. We can say that we value people and that we are a loving church. The test, however, comes in what is actually happening in conversations, meetings, and exchanges between people. The test comes in how we are actually treating people.
Right now, my ministry is located primarily in a seminary. We have students, faculty, and staff who interact with one another daily. They also interact with me. How do I treat the people with whom I serve? How do I treat students? These are important questions that say much about my leadership. They also say much about my discipleship to Jesus.