I made a significant mistake early on in my ministry career. I made several decisions that were unpopular — but that was not my mistake. We are going to make decisions that don’t please everyone. That is a good case of the normals.
My mistake was in recruiting some individuals who were vehemently opposed to the changes that I was making. My mistake came when I thought about the old axiom, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Of course I don’t want to view these individuals as my enemies by any stretch of the imagination! However, I thought that the principle could apply to bringing people close to me who were opposed to me so that I could either keep a close eye on them or seek to influence and win them over.
Disunity in Ministry: I naively thought that having them participate in the ministry would win them over to embrace our changes. Things couldn’t have been further from the truth. I recruited publicly disunifying figures. I brought them close to the sheep. I brought them close to other volunteers. I made a mistake.
As a result of that mistake, I would regularly receive emails from these disunifying volunteers. They were fault finding, nitpicking, and criticizing nearly everything that we were doing. These emails sucked energy from my already full plate. These individuals were not going to be persuaded to see the positives that were taking place. They were not going to be won over, and nothing that I could do was going to change that.
Relationships with Others: In addition, every individual in the church has relationships with other people. The last thing that we want to do is to elevate disunifying people to a higher level of authority or influence within the ministry.
I had only placed these people within classrooms, not within the children’s ministry leadership, but other church members went to them and asked them for their perspective about the changes in children’s ministry. Remember, everyone has friends and usually people ask questions of their friends rather than going directly to the children’s pastor—though that would be best.
So, when you recruit disunifying people, and other people come to them instead of you with questions, it provides an opportunity for this cancer to spread. That is a bold term, but I want to emphasize that recruiting disunifying individuals is one of the most dangerous moves you could make as a leader in any ministry. Do not recruit disunifying people.
Do not let them near the sheep.
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” -- Psalm 133:1
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” -- Ephesians 4:1-3
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