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How to Deal with Challenging Team Members

Unless you're a low-life dictator, it's unlikely that you like telling other people what to do or correcting them. You probably don't enjoy being called out yourself, and you may even question your right to say to others what they're doing wrong.

Good for you if you feel that way! You have what it takes to be a good leader!

Power-mad dictators make terrible leaders. They often become unstable and lose control. There is no place for that kind of leadership in God's Kingdom. That would be the opposite of what Jesus said a great leader is.

The truth of the matter is that leadership invites challenge. When you are in a position of authority, others will be naturally encouraged to challenge that authority, even in the church.

And that means that:

● Sometimes, you're going to have to make difficult decisions.

● Sometimes, you'll have to have difficult conversations.

● Sometimes, you'll need to discipline your team.

How NOT to Handle Discipline

The worst thing you can do when disciplining your team members is to shout or lose your cool.

This is a wrong move for several reasons:

● It makes you look like you've lost control. (They are leading when you lose it.)

● It invites further challenges.

● It makes you seem easily manipulated by others.

The other key to remember is that being a leader does not mean you have a right to shout or reprimand. The more effective way to think about your relationship with your team is as a partnership. You are a part of that team and have entered into an agreement. Remember Jesus' words on leadership: "So Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant." (Mark 10:42–43, NLT)

As a Pastor or church ministry leader, your team has agreed to follow your leadership as far as is reasonable, and you've agreed to the responsibility of leading them. You aren't in charge of them, you don't own them, and it's not your place to try and punish them or make them feel small. Instead, you express that they are violating the terms of your agreement or going against the vision and mission and that they should expect the expected results.

Your job, then, is to remove emotion and any bias. This can be so hard in ministry. But for the health of the church or ministry, create a simple procedure for dealing with failure or purposeful disruption. Express this at the start of your relationship with team members, and then simply follow through as you have outlined.

Guard Against Gossip

The biggest reason not to shout at or embarrass your team is that you can't simply ignore the disruptive issues and hope they go away. Both these actions can cause the situation to fester and become worse.

If someone is unhappy with your leadership, they may make their dissatisfaction known to others, and this can cause more of your team to become vocally unhappy. We know that God hates gossip. So as ministry leaders, let's not give our people anything that may tempt them to gossip.

Over time, this unhappiness can spread through your whole team and be incredibly destructive.

Isolating the individual, meanwhile, only causes them to become more set in their opinions and more disruptive when they return.

So, what do you do with someone who is vocally critical and undermining your leadership?

Let's do what Jesus said: "If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. "I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. "I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:15–20 NLT)

  1. Go to them privately.

  2. If that doesn't work take one or two others with you.

  3. If that doesn't work take it to the entire church.

Jesus has given us a great plan that always works. But we sometimes forget to use it in the heat of the moment. (It's heartbreaking that we use this verse to have a good prayer gathering. "If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you." When Jesus was talking about a leadership principle for church discipline.)

When you, as a ministry leader, do what Jesus tells us to do as leaders, people will appreciate your willingness to confront the issues. At best, you may make a new friend who will have your back. You may even be able to give them a project to try and fix that side of your ministry.

If you work together, you can show people that the situation is more complicated than it seems. This will make them stop criticizing you. You will need to work closely with them through this, which can help them understand what you do better. They may also start to respect you more and be more willing to work together as a team. It could be a win-win for the Kingdom!

Try it and see how it works for your team!


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