Taking It Personally

How can we not take it personally?  Reign of God

  • The Good-bye Reception planned for you (their ostensibly beloved pastor of ten years) is identical to the Good-bye Reception held for the your extremely disliked predecessor. Cake and punch in the fellowship hall with a framed photo of the sanctuary.
  • The Bible Study on Revelation so carefully planned and offered after a core group of members had said, “We’d love to have a Bible Study on Revelation” attracts only two people – at a time and date that many said was most convenient for them.
  • The Speaker Series set up for the summer which was both labor intensive and in addition to your regular duties started strong with 20 people attending.  But by the third week, no one came.  Not. One. Person.  Except the invited speaker.

Professional ministry is Not About Us.  We don’t do ministry for accolades and gift cards.  But how can we teach each other those valuable lessons in leadership that include self-differentiation and non-anxiety when things don’t turn out the way we’d planned?

Leadership skills – in my humble opinion – are not taught well in seminary.

Some of our best leaders have these skills intuitively, but we need to help those who are not intuitive leaders.  In a perfect world, Field Education Supervisors are excellent models of leadership.  But too often they also model workaholism and defensiveness.  [I once had a supervisor who actually tried to sabotage me after parishioners started seeing me as “a real pastor.”]

Non-clergy church members also take things personally when the event they coordinate is less than a booming success.  I’ve observed parishioners stomp off in a huff when volunteers let them down or participants didn’t thank them enough.

Here are my basic ideas for overcoming the trap of taking things personally in church:

  • Take Regular Sabbath.   The exhausted/hangry spiritual leader is more likely to burst into tears when someone criticizes our theory of atonement.  Or our hair.
  • Develop a Friendly Sense of Humor.  Humor can be biting and sarcastic, but that’s not what I’m talking about –  although it’s tempting when you set up coffee at 5 am and nobody showed up for the Pentecost Prayer Breakfast.
  • Let It Go.  Maybe nobody’s coming to the (stupid) Pentecost Prayer Breakfast because nobody wanted a Pentecost Prayer Breakfast but you.  If too few people volunteer to help with Vacation Bible School, don’t have Vacation Bible School.  (You are not the Professional Christian charged with Making All Things Happen.)
  • Remember Your Value.  It has nothing to do with attendance numbers, building use, or cash collected.

Who doesn’t want to be beloved and have that beloved-ness manifested by rousing applause and pats on the back?  But sometimes our efforts result in disappointment or failure, and the worst thing we can do in these situations is act defensive or threatened.

Instead we are called to model What Love Looks Like in the image of Jesus so that others will learn and live accordingly.  This is something to take very personally for sake of living out The Great Commission.

Image of a sign on the back of a door in the Presbytery Office.

2 responses to “Taking It Personally

  1. Reblogged this on The Accidental Minister and commented:
    THIS is a perfect reminder during a stressful time. Thanks!


  2. Good reminders.
    But the “letting it go” idea has been more difficult for the congregation than it has been for me. So many times I have said “this committee does not need to keep doing all of the work. If people from the congregation don’t sign up to help, we won’t have snacks at coffee hour” (or fill in the blank–VBS, picnics, classes, etc).
    It has gotten easier over time. I think we fear the unknown (“what if there is no coffee after church?! Everyone will leave for other churches with better food!”)
    My response has often been, “maybe. Or else they will sign up to make coffee. Let’s risk it.”

    We need to equip pastors to be leaders. But that won’t matter if it doesn’t trickle down to the other church leaders too.


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