Almost on a weekly basis, I receive an email from a staff member of a church with the same question. They are in an awkward position where they don’t respect the pastor, but love the church, feel loyal to it, and don’t want to hurt the church. Their question is: How do they respond to a leader they can’t support, but who is their boss and the church’s called leader?
Recently a staff member emailed me to say his pastor was extremely popular in the church, but consistently received false recognition and support that others on the team deserved. The pastor, in this staff member’s opinion, is taking advantage of the church’s support of the pastor, but the church doesn’t realize it. He knew he probably didn’t have enough power to do anything about it. He doesn’t want to hurt the church, but also doesn’t respect his pastor. His question was: What’s the best way to respond?
Great question. I wish there were easy answers.
Here are 5 suggestions:
Don’t talk behind his back – It would be easy to share your frustration, but chances are that doing so will only backfire against you and cause tension in the church. People in the church will have the same struggle you have, feeling a sense of loyalty to the pastor. Putting them in an awkward position isn’t fair to them or the pastor.
Be honest to his face – It’s never easy, but it’s always best. Conflict is hard. I’ve learned it’s often avoided in churches. But, unless you are going to suck it up and say nothing, the first person you need to share your frustration with is the person with whom you are frustrated.
Find other voices to invest in you – One role of the leader is to invest personally in the people being led. Most likely you’re missing out on this. Find others who will invest in you. You’d be surprised how willing other pastors may be to assist you if they are asked. They will be honored that you thought of them and willing to help you think through your current situation. You will need this help.
Find a place to vent – Surround yourself with some people with whom you can be brutally honest. It’s probably best that these people be outside the church, but you need a place to share your heart. You’ll wither and die emotionally if you bottle up your current emotions for too long. Be selective who you bare your soul to, but be vulnerable enough to share your concerns with others. It will help keep you from burning out in ministry.
Leave when you can’t respect the leadership (tell him first) – Again, this is hard, but you need to be mature enough and responsible enough to consider the bigger picture. You will never fully support every decision any leader makes. You may not even be best friends with the pastor. When, however, you have no more respect for the leadership, unless there is a moral issue at stake, you need to consider the welfare of the church ahead of your own. Have the hard, honest conversation, but leave before your lack of respect is evident to those around you. It’s the right thing to do.