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Seven Steps to Reforming a Dysfunctional Ministry or Church

I like to focus on my successes, not my failures. Rarely have I written about negative experiences. In my last entry, I defined the “martyr syndrome” as a breakdown in dysfunctional ministry relationships that end with volunteer Christian workers feeling victimized. Wherever there is conflict, there are always two sides that share some of the fault. I’ve always tried to leave relationships on good terms even though there was a fundamental disagreement. A few times I’ve successfully returned to work with the same people I thought were impossible to work with. Don’t burn bridges, that’s my first piece of advice.

I’ve obviously written this for my own benefit as a guide to reform. But maybe this has happened to you or someone you know? I’ve tried to briefly spell out what people can do to avoid the “martyr syndrome” — that feeling of “victimization” when ministry relationships do not work out.

1. Beware that all people are selfish in some way. Is there a person on the planet that is not selfish? We all share in original sin. No one is exempt from selfish behavior. Most people who are “unselfishly” serving in ministries are actually fulfilling a need for spiritual and emotional fulfillment. Some enjoy the reputation of self-sacrifice. But we should avoid the “martyr complex.” If we blame others every time we willingly sacrifice and yet are taken advantage of or underappreciated, then we have already received our reward. In claiming that all others around us are selfish, we hypocritically exhibit a more extreme form of selfishness. The remedy is to be careful that we not look for our reward from men, but should look to God.

2. Avoid obsessive compulsive behavior. A lot of times the self-proclaimed “experts” are merely those who exhibit obsessive compulsive behavior in one area of expertise. Lots of energy is expended and much gets done in a short time. However, this personality trait almost never stays on track consistently for more than a period of time. The principle of the Kingdom of God is that we must build “little by little” (Exodus 23:30).We must be covenantally faithful with what God entrusted to us over a long period of time (Proverbs 13:11). Then we cannot lose anything if we invest our lives consistently in serving God’s purposes.

3. Avoid unrealistic expectations. A lot of times a ministry project can seem exciting and new to a young volunteer. But be aware that the ones who found and maintain ministries often have to suffer through long periods of what seems to be unfruitful labor before they see any results. Ministries should also be careful not to frustrate and under-appreciate volunteers. Sometimes the encouragement of having some new blood in an organization can lead to a demand for too much from people who aren’t equipped to handle the pressure.

4. Write up a contract of some type. Define the terms of service before any “ministry” work gets done. What is the purpose of the project really? Is it solely to advance the cause of missions? Is it to raise money for a general fund or salaries pertaining to ministry work? Who is in charge of the project? What is the agreement? What happens if the agreement is not followed? Even if there is a written contract, the person in charge will often change the terms when it suits him. In this case, can the worker leave the contract without either side suffering damage? Is there a third party that may arbitrate as a witness if genuine damages occur? These are the main issues to be considered in such a contract.

5. Let God repay you. If we willingly harm other people in our thoughts, acts or words, then God will punish us if we do not repent. I have seen this happen continually in my life. I thank God I am not by nature a vindictive person and God made me somewhat thick-skinned. In every case that I have been wronged, God will always repay me. In any case, we should always seek to reconcile relationships with people we have wronged in any way. At the same time, we need to understand that some people don’t want healing and reconciliation. It’s hard to let that go if you have a heart for God, but sometimes sifting is biblical and necessary.

6. Honor your elders. The people who lead your ministry or church, whether they are ordained or not, likely have more years of experience and wisdom than you do. They are fallible human beings to boot. Yet even when you disagree with them because they are flat out wrong, they still may have something to teach you. Sometimes we even learn by a negative example. Nevertheless, if we persevere in ministry work, God may eventually place us in a position of authority. When that happens God will see to it that people will treat us in the same manner as we treated others.

7. Check your motivation. What are you doing serving a ministry in the first place? Do you want only to please God? Is it for a sense of spiritual fulfillment? Is it to get recognition? Are you there for training purposes so you can benefit in another endeavor later on. If you are looking for a reward, what type of reward do you expect? There is nothing inherently sinful about doing things that will benefit us, but in the end we will get a reward beyond measure if we will only accept what God gives us and be satisfied to do His will.

Comments

Your comments are welcome!

"Wherever there is conflict, there are always two sides that share some of the fault".

Having a conflict with worldliness and ungodliness and fighting the good fight of faith is not a fault, it's biblical obedience.

"Fight the good fight of faith..." - 1 Timothy 6:12

ww

Posted by  Anonymous on 09/02/2014 10:00 AM #

You are nitpicking just a little bit here.

The context of that statement is conflict between people serving in ministry.

Whenever there are fallible human beings there is going to be conflict, but it is rare to have a conflict when 100 percent of the fault is on one side.

Only a perfect person could claim no faults in their everyday dealings with other people. The only exception to the rule is Jesus as you pointed out.

Posted by Jay Rogers on 03/11/2006 02:06 PM #

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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

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Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

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This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.

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Massacre of Innocence (DVD)

Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion

This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.

Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.

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Amazing GraceAmazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (DVD)

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Just what is Calvinism?

Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?

This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.

Running Time: 257 minutes

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