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15 Jan '14

The Emotional Intelligence of churches and ministries

Posted by T.J. Addington in emotional intelligence (EQ)
Here is an interesting question. We talk much about EQ (Emotional Intelligence) as it relates to individuals but do ministries also have a corporate EQ? I believe that they do: It is the combined EQ level of its leadership and staff and it has profound implications for the overall effectiveness of the ministry. My observations come out of two decades plus of working with ministry organizations.

Here are some of the markers of good and poor organizational or ministry EQ.

How we handle conflict
This is a biggie! I once worked with a troubled church where any disagreement with the senior leader was seen as a lack of loyalty and works like "submission" and "obedience" along with ubiquitous scripture references were bandied around frequently. Then there were "charges" against those whose behavior was seen as "sinful" and "admonitions" to those who had crossed some line.

While this may seem extreme - and it is more common than it should be - there are many ministries that don't know how to deal with conflict, differences, or simply resolve differences quickly and without major drama. The upshot is not only relationships that do not get healed but often conflict escalates rather than de-escalates, becomes a matter of obedience or submission (so now we are in the realm of sin and righteousness) but it steals amazing amounts of time from what could be productively spent elsewhere. 

I am always way when Scripture plays a big part in ministry conflict - used as a defense or hammer. What it often reveals is the defensiveness of the one using it and the spiritualization of what is often just a difference of opinion.

How we handle candid dialogue
This is the corollary. There are organizations that reflecting their leadership are "defensive" organizations, unable to tolerate, invite, listen to and value differences of opinion. Healthy organizations allow the free flow of opinions, ideas, viewpoints and convictions rather than stifle them.

When healthy EQ is present, these organizations actually realize far greater innovation and effectiveness and there is a spirit of freedom. When unhealthy EQ is present there is often fear in expressing one's opinions because it leads to conflict (above) and the inability of the organization to deal with that conflict.

How we treat people
In healthy organizational EQ, staff are valuable individuals who do ministry with - not for - their leaders. There is an egalitarian ethos where all are treated with dignity and their opinions valued no matter where they fall on the organizational chart. Whenever staff feel that they are used for the benefit of leadership or the mission there are EQ issues that are being played out.

A good test in any organization on this score is how we treat people who are at our level or below (organizationally). If there is the same honor and value placed on those who fall below us on the org chart ans there is on those above us it is a sign of good EQ.

How we deal with criticism
This goes to the issue of candid dialogue but to a different level. The ability of people to speak to dysfunction or push back in a healthy manner on one another is a critical EQ issue, especially for leaders who are most often impacted. Healthy organizations have a "nothing to to prove, nothing to lose" attitude that responds to critique non-defensively rather than with defensiveness. When that stance is taken, there are no issues because there is no defensiveness.

When leaders respond defensively there is usually a built in probability of conflict where there did not need to be. Church leaders often get themselves into trouble here by taking critique personally and circling the wagons to defend themselves. Why is that necessary and why should those who attend the church not have the ability to speak into issues that concern them? How leaders respond to critique is a sign of the EQ of the organization as a whole.

Organizational pride or humility
Ministries can be prideful or humble. The truth is that pride is always a sign of low EQ and it negatively impacts the organization because it is not able to see itself objectively. I have worked with churches, for instance, who went through an era where they were a "big deal" in their community. Decades later, even when facing decline of significant issues of health their perception of themselves is that they are still that "big deal." Unfortunately it keeps them from seeing themselves as they truly are and being willing to take a good look in the mirror.

Proud ministries don't partner well with others (they have an attitude that they can always do it better), resist any good ideas that are not their's (thus if they didn't produce it - it is not worthy), talk among themselves about how special they are and how pedestrian other ministries are and have an elevated view of themselves. Humble ministries partner well, are always looking to learn from others, understand the small place they play in the grand scheme of God and rather than lifting themselves up simply seek to do the best they can and encourage other ministries along the way.

It is worth some thinking and dialogue within your ministry as to what the EQ of your ministry is. Of course it takes humility to be willing to do that just as it does for us personally.