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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

13 Apr '11

Dealing with problematic behaviors

One of the things ministries are fairly deficient at is addressing problematic behaviors that cause havoc to the health of teams and organizations. Many problematic behaviors would be addressed in a business environment that are not addressed in a ministry setting.


Think about the following behaviors and their impact on a ministry. Overt or covert resistance to the missional agenda. Passive aggressive behavior that undermines leaders, teams and ministry direction. Add to the list, outright nasty attitudes, cynicism, criticism, or sniping that again undermine any sense of unity that is so critical to ministry success. Let's be honest: these kinds of behaviors are poison to teams and organizations.

I think the reason we put up with such behaviors in ministry is that with our emphasis on "grace" and our lack of training in dealing with personnel we often allow behaviors that undermine the very results that we want to see. I often talk to pastors about the person on their staff who causes havoc with the whole team. Knowing that these behaviors hurt the ministry but wanting to be redemptive in our leadership, how do we deal with behaviors that undermine ministry?


First, recognize that unhealthy behaviors hurt ministry! Think about the list of problematic behaviors that are listed in the book of Ephesians and Paul's emphatic insistence that we "get rid of such" behavior and put on the character of Christ. Certainly those in full time ministry need to exhibit healthy attitudes and behaviors. Those behaviors that undermine unity, create cynicism, divide people, or overtly or covertly undermine the missional agenda of the organization are destructive and should be declared illegal in any ministry. 


Second, we need to learn to honestly confront such behaviors, explain to those involved why the behaviors are problematic and how they impact others. The good news is that in many instances, those involved do not want to impact others in the ways they do but no one has ever been honest with them about their behaviors and the results of their behaviors. Thus in many cases, with coaching and ongoing feedback, people will understand the issues and seek to change the behaviors. Frankly, the most helpful thing we can do with those with problematic behaviors is simply to be honest.

People do not change quickly so redemptive strategy requires that we give people time to change, the coaching that is needed to help them change and some patience in the process. All with ongoing feedback.

But, if after honest feedback and coaching, attitudes or behaviors do not change, problematic behaviors must be dealt with if the ministry is going to be healthy. That may mean isolating someone where they will do the least damage. Or it may mean transitioning them out of your ministry. Remember that such behaviors are not just irritants, they actually negatively impact other staff, ministry effectiveness, team unity and the very culture of the organization. So, not dealing with these issues is a lack of grace to others who are impacted by the behaviors.


The bottom line is that we need to be redemptive to those with problematic behaviors but also for the organization. Ignoring the issue is the real threat.