By Joyce Thomas
Every pastor’s spouse serving in ministry must be equipped with strategies to deal with people who wound. In every ministry, there are people who inevitably bring conflict and confusion into the group. These are wounded people who tend to wound others. They are often very critical of you personally, and they always have a better idea than the one you have for your group or project. They are usually very selfish, have unresolved issues, and want their way or no way. They might even spread rumors and falsely accuse people in a ministry, especially the leaders. When they don’t get their way, they try to talk others into leaving the group, causing the membership to go down and making it look like it is the leader’s fault. Such people will show up in your ministry, and equipping yourself to respond properly will make your work easier. It will also help encourage them to conform to the ministry’s standards or move on to a different one.
Often, pastors’ spouses and their committees take an indirect posture when dealing with persons who cause unhealthy conflict because they are afraid of conflict and being attacked. Leaders typically end up trying to appease the person in the hope that it will lead to cooperation. However, trying to please someone who causes conflict rarely works. In a book entitled Leading Women Who Wound
, Sue Edward and Kelly Matthews argue that, as you serve God in ministry, you must to be tough. Instead of being a people pleaser, they argue a leader needs skin like the hide of a rhinoceros. The authors explain that having tough skin helps a leader to develop tough love. This is especially helpful in dealing with people who wound. You cannot allow people to wound others in your ministry without doing something about it. When you let confusion, dissent, and conflict continue, the work of ministry becomes miserable.
Edwards and Matthews give several suggestions on how to approach a person who wounds from a biblical prospective. There is one in particular that I am learning to incorporate into my life. It is found in Matthew 18:15-17, which states:
“If your sister wrongs you, go and show her, her faults. Between you and her privately. If she listens to you, you have won back your sister. But if she does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If she pays no attention (refusing to listen and obey), tell it to the church; and if she refuses to listen to the church, let her be to you as a pagan and a tax collector” (AMP).
This biblical text has really informed me on not letting people disrespect, cause confusion, or slander ministry leaders. We as Christian have to take a stand for Christ by not letting these kinds of people undermine the work of a ministry and those who serve in it. We must talk to these people face to face and with tough love, helping them discover the real issues at hand and ways to resolve them. They must know that they are hurting others and, if they are not confronted, they will continue doing what they have always done.
What do you say? How will you respond to people who wound? Equip yourself with strategies for action. Being prepared will allow for a more enjoyable and enriching experience. This is God’s will for your life and ministry. Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas is the Associate Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration.
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