Soon the seminaries of the LCMS will have their Call services. Teacher and DCE candidates from the Concordia systems will be graduating and entering the world of church work in the next few months. This is a very exciting time!
I want to share some thoughts with you, young church workers. Please understand the spirit in which I share this: I share this so that you can have a broader view of the church we serve. I share this so that you are not taken by surprise. I do not share this out of any personal frustration or problem. In fact, a major reason I share this is that I recently found an article called “Church Politics 101” by John Killinger. It appeared in “Leadership” in Spring, 2006. (Another version of this can be found here.) I do not necessarily agree with some of what Mr. Killinger says, and so I will only share some of the article with you here with some of my own comments interjected. Please refer to the link above for the original.
Here are some tips for you as you go to the new places in which the Lord has placed you:
1. Cultivate memberships with church members across all strata. You serve members of many backgrounds, so be sure to reach across those backgrounds.
2. Be meticulously honest. Lies inevitably return to haunt you. If you fail at anything, be quick to admit it. Don’t try to cover up. Small deceits mushroom into bigger problems. Remember that “I’m sorry” is a powerful statement that covers a multitude of sins–whether perceived or real.
3. Be open, but do not share everything you know. Discretion is important. Always keep confidences inviolable. Nothing undermines your relationship with a congregation than betraying a trust.
4. Live your personal life beyond reproach. It may not be fair for congregations to expect more of you than they do themselves, but it is a fact of life that they do. Fulfill obligations, avoid the appearance of evil and be especially aware of the appearance of relationships with the opposite sex.
5. You do not have to tolerate liars, gossip, and troublemakers. Every church will have some hurt, disgruntled, or even morally evil people who will try to sabotage you and/or your ministry. Be sure that these people are removed from leadership positions… and then minister to them. Leadership of your church and school must come from vision. If a person in a leadership position is more concerned with lies, gossip, and stirring trouble, that person is harming the entire congregation/school.
6. You are not Superman. Don’t be afraid to admit when you are hurting or troubled.
7. Be generous in giving credit to others, especially in public.
8. Concentrate on the big picture. Remember that you have been called to minister. You more than likely were not called to write a newsletter, change light bulbs, put salt on the ice, etc. Do the things that only you can do. If someone else can do it, delegate it. You were called for certain aspects of ministry. This is not to say that there are several functions that are “beneath you.” Rather, you are human. You have limited time and energy. That time and energy must be focused on those tasks which will be accomplished through only you and you alone.
9. Embody love and forgiveness to all. You will be slighted; you will be insulted–even by those with whom you have a very close relationship. Some will be intentional, some will be accidental. If you focus on your own hurts, you cannot minister to those who need to hear the Word.
10. Always exalt Christ. The ministry should always be about Him.