Batten down the hatches because conflict is blowing your way! How will you weather the storm?
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After spending months creating a quality summer ministry for your elementary kids, you’re very proud of your Wonderful Wednesdays program. How awesome! Five Wednesdays during the summer — a trip to an amusement park, a bicycle trip, a zoo trip, a movie, and a trip to a local hands-on science museum — all opening with singing time, devotions, and visits from local mission groups.
While passing out the colorful booklets you spent hours preparing, a parent approaches you. She blurts out, “Just wanted to let you know I signed up to chaperone the zoo trip. I know you have that policy about not bringing babies, but I’ll have to bring baby Madison. I just can’t find a good sitter.”
Unfortunately, your safety policy clearly states, “All children attending Wonderful Wednesdays must be of elementary-school age; no one under or over this age is permitted on the outings.”
In a very respectful, loving voice you explain the reason behind this rule and the importance of sticking to it. The mother quickly retorts, “Well, you can just count my Katie out of all the Wednesdays then! A mother should be allowed to bring her baby with her. What kind of children’s minister are you? That rule is crazy and there are several others who feel the same way!”
• • •
An elder calls you on your day off to question the amount you spent on an outreach event. “Why did you spend $30 on hamburgers? Why didn’t you have the kids donate desserts? This is the kind of waste I see all the time in the children’s area.” You try to get a word in, but he won’t take a breath. You want to tell him, “I did have the boys bring soft drinks and the girls bring chips.” It looks, however, like you won’t ever get a chance to speak. You keep thinking, This guy is supposed to be on my side.
• • •
One of your elementary teachers informs you that Mary, one of your co-leaders, is bad-mouthing the children’s ministry and your leadership. You find out Mary has been phoning several other teachers to get them to contact the pastor to request your resignation.
• • •
In times like these the phrase “Ministry is hard!” seems like the biggest understatement of your life. The truth is, ministry is hard! Another truth is this: Leadership, in any form, is hard. Some days you search to remember why you ever decided to go into ministry.
No one ever says, “Today I had three mothers mad at me and, boy, do I feel good!” Most of us shy away from conflict at all costs. Let’s face it, people can be mean when they don’t get their way. Other people have bad days on occasion and, unfortunately, you might just receive the brunt of it. Others are simply negative by nature and fail to see the good in anything.
These conflicts in ministry are “storms.” Most of these storms are painful at the time, but they pass quickly and become lessons learned. By putting these steps into practice, you can stand up against the inevitable storms that’ll blow into your ministry.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR OPPONENT
The Bible is clear that as Christians, we’re fighting a constant battle we cannot see. Ephesians 6 tells us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” And most ministers will affirm this fact: Satan’s darts are aiming all the more at you as a minister of the gospel. You are in a war against evil; you stand there with an enormous target on the front of your body, a bull’s-eye right over your heart. Satan desires nothing more than to have his flaming arrows pierce your heart to destroy you and your ministry.
First Peter 5:8 warns us as well, “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Note the severity of the language used in this verse: “prowl,” “roaring lion,” “seeking,” and “devour.” This isn’t a picture of a little kitty playing with a ball of yarn. Satan isn’t just batting us around trying to mess with us and our ministries; he’s seeking to kill us! His desire is for nothing less than for you to fail in your ministry, your marriage, and your call. Never forget this simple truth: Satan wants you to fail!
“To live in ignorance of spiritual warfare is the most naive and dangerous thing a person can do,” writes John Eldredge in Waking the Dead. “It’s like skipping through the worst part of town, late at night, waving your wallet above your head… It’s like swimming with great white sharks, dressed as a wounded sea lion and smeared with blood. And let me tell you something: You don’t escape spiritual warfare simply because you choose not to believe it exists or because you refuse to fight it.”
When faced with a storm in your ministry, don’t be ignorant of your opponent. Be constantly aware of Satan and his desires for your life and your ministry. Protect yourself by putting on your spiritual armor every morning. Write the words of Ephesians 6:11-18 on a 3×5 card and place it somewhere visible, perhaps on a mirror, as you get ready each morning.
Ask God to help you put on this armor to prevent Satan’s darts from hitting your heart: “God, please help me to put on the helmet of salvation. Help me to remember that I am yours. You promise me this in your Word. Help me show others today that I am a Holy Spirit-filled vessel for you. Help me to put on the belt of truth. Lord, please let everything that comes out of my mouth today be truth and help me boldly tell others about your truth. And God, please help me keep my armor on throughout the day so Satan’s flaming arrows won’t pierce my heart.”
Facing the day with prayer and the full armor of God will help you deal with the well-intentioned, difficult people you may encounter throughout the day.