Seven Deadly Behaviors of Ministry (Part One)

coffee_cup_424.jpgI have been thinking about mistakes that one can make in a ministry which are deadly.  No, I don’t mean deadly in that a person could get reprimanded or even fired over these behaviors (though that is possible).  Rather, I am suggesting that these are behaviors that rob us and our congregations of everything that ministry is supposed to be.  These are behaviors that can wreck a ministry in a church.

1.  Regularly violate the confidence of others.  A fast way to lose the trust and the credibility of a church is to communicate what others have told you in private conversation.  I once heard a person say, "If you don’t want it spread throughout the church, don’t tell him!"  She was talking about her minister.  That is very sad.

Conversation is a sacred trust.  Men and women will often express thoughts, concerns, feelings, ideas, etc. through these conversations.  On more than one occasion I have asked myself, "If I were to repeat what ___ said to me in conversation, would he/she be shocked or hurt that I told this?  I have found that simply reflecting on this question has curtailed the temptation to talk when I should not.

2.  Let yourself go.  Pay no attention to your speech or your conduct.  Practice little if any self-discipline.  Don’t exercise or make any effort to stay fit.  Be a poor steward of your body.  Pay no attention to any need for restraint when it comes to spending.  Buy what you want even if it means that you are accumulating credit card debt.  Does your spending reflect a life that values wisdom or does it reflect slavery to immediate gratification? 

The reality?  When I pay little or no attention to these kinds of things, my credibility with others may begin to suffer.  After all, what does it say when I choose to ignore my daily life before the Lord while I encourage others to get serious about their own daily discipleship?   (I may argue that my credibility should not suffer but the reality is that it often does.)

3.  Fail to invest in relationships.  There are some people who make little investment in their marriages or in the lives of their children.  They then wonder why these relationships often suffer deeply at a later point in time.  How many ministers have failed to really invest in relationships in the church and then under pressure and stress realize that the connection with the church is really only superficial?  How many ministers have gone into churches connecting with those who agree with them and remaining disconnected from those who differ with them over some issue or approach to ministry?

(Note: There are many, many people who have never seen a healthy marriage up close.  Some of these same people have never seen a healthy parent/child relationship up close.  There are others who have never really seen healthy friendships up close.  Through no fault of their own, many of these people grew up in homes where none of these were modeled.  I have married couples where the bride or groom had never been a part of a family where a wife or husband function in a healthy manner.  (I want to suggest that it might be very, very helpful to seek out good models of what it means to have good, healthy, Christian relationships.)

Earlier this afternoon, I called the 800 number of a firm that handles credit cards for an on-line travel service.  I called the number because I received an e-mail yesterday telling me that I owed an amount on their credit card.  Hmmm.  I don’t even have their credit card.  Well, this was frustrating.    

When I called the 800 number, I received an automated voice message that said, "Please continue to hold for the next relationship manager."  I am not sure what the credit card company meant by "relationship manager";  however, there are times when I wish I had one.  After all, investing in our relationships is very important.

More later… 

I’m interested in what you are thinking.  What would you add to these "Deadly Behaviors of Ministry"?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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25 thoughts on “Seven Deadly Behaviors of Ministry (Part One)

  1. Jim, This is superb post, I can relate to all of the points you have made here in relation to ministers. The first two especially, it both challenged me in repeating conversations that I justify but should really not be repeated and I also related to it from the other side because a minister at a church I went to had this trait of telling everyone everybodies business, it completly killed any sense of pastoral care, and turned the relationship into that of an authortarian leader. The second point is also very important, there was an experienced and mature christian pastor who at one point was actively discipling me, as I became better friends with his grown up children I discovered that he had horrendous continual debt problems which has been massively destructive for his family, it really impacted my respect for him and unfortunatly became a silent footnote to many of our further conversations. Finally and shortly (far too long a commtn sorry) I think that Pastors who have little respect for their staff and treat them disrespectfully can be very destructive.Looking forward to the next part.

  2. Great post, Jim.  I’m looking forward to the next installment.  "How many times have ministers gone into churches, connecting with those who agree with them and remaining disconnected from those who differ with them over some issue or approach to ministry." That’s a good question.  As ministers…for that matter simply as brothers & sisters in Christ…we  not only should seek to have relationships with people with whom we disagree, we need to.   It kind of reminds me of something I’ve said before when talking about seeking advice.  If all your friends always agree with you about what/how things should be handled, you need some different friends that will have the wisdom and guts to tell you when you’re wrong.  If on the congregational level we know we need varying perspectives and personalities to keep us on track, certainly the same is true on the personal level.  It’s just easier sometimes to surround ourselves with "yes" friends. Easier, but damaging in the long run.   

  3. Jim – your comments about relationships strikes a chord. As a fellow ordained minister, in a church that is liturgically-based and celebrates Communion every Sunday, it is so rich to have my "flock" kneel at the altar rail each Sunday – and give them the Body of Christ, knowing and having a relationship with each one. As I look into their eyes, individually, I can say (in my mind) – "his career is on the rocks" or "she just found out they are pregnant" or "he must be a visitor who I need to get to know" or "with your stage 4 cancer, this is the most likely the last Ash Wednesday you will probably be alive."
    And, I know, from my flock, that because of investing in relationships –  they know exactly what I am thinking, as well, as I look into their eyes, delivering the bread of heaven.
    Oh, what a fellowship divine!

  4. Jim,
    I think I would add pessimism to that list. It’s easy to become bitter over time in the ministry. Pursuing the spiritual discipline of joy is a must for those of us called to keep our hands on the plow for the long haul.
    Great insights. Looking forward to the rest. Press on.
    Brian Jones

  5. Jim, Good reminder to keep me centered on integrity in ministry.  Your point about many people having never seen an example of a good marriage, family, friendship, etc., is so true, and it grieves me.  There are so many opportunities to bring God’s healing in our world.   

  6. Hi Matt– They are probably applicable to elders and other key leaders in churches.  However, in reflecting on these I am particularly focused on ministers of churches in various roles. 

  7. Liam,Thank you so much for these examples from your own experience.  Your experiences serve to reinforce just how significant these negative behaviors really are. 

  8. Good thoughts! After leaving a very frustrating ministry (8 years) in Florida, I was far too reluctant to invest in relationships the first few years in Long Beach. Huge mistake on my part, but they were and are a forgiving people.

  9. This is great advice.  Thank you.  I look forward to some more wisdom. 

  10. James,Great comment.  You are right.  It is a wonderful thing to have a person in your life who loves you deeply though he may not or does not agree with you.  Such a person is a gift. 

  11. Jeff,I like your words.  There is no substitute in ministry for investing in these relationships.  Thanks for expressing this so well.

  12. Hello Brian,What you say regarding pessimism is so true.  Such a spirit has a way of serving as a gray cloud over an entire ministry.  Thanks for this reminder.

  13. Greg,Thanks very much.  You raise an important point.  I appreciate what you said regarding your reacting to a former church.  I have done the same.  In fact, I know a number of ministers who have.  What you are saying is very important.

  14. I would add "failure to get out of the office." Too many times we get wrapped up in the church office (or home office) and don’t get out in the community to interact and meet others. Why not take our offices to the coffee shops or lunch hang-outs? 

  15. Jim,
    These are right on target and very practical to the pastoral life. Thanks for thinking about them and sharing with us.