Dealing with Adversaries
Do you ever feel like you’re a magnet for naysayers? It doesn’t matter how well a Sunday service goes or how effective your latest ministry event was, there always seems to be at least one critic who has questions or complaints. In fact, you probably can instantly create a mental list of the people who never seem to be happy with what your church or ministry is doing.
Our ministry philosophy at Cross Point is very simple and straightforward. Outside of Sunday mornings, we do three main things – kids and students, community groups, and missions. We believe this simplified strategy helps us most effectively reach those we’re called to reach and keeps our time, energy, and resources laser focused. But there are a lot of good things that come up from time to time to tempt us to stray from this vision. And there are a lot of well intentioned people who pushback on this ministry philosophy with their passions and wishes.
Vision alignment is difficult. It can be exhausting to continue casting vision to people who just haven’t bought into it or have a propensity to constantly second-guess it. When confronted with this tiring dynamic, I’ve learned to ask myself four critical questions:
Have I taken the time to recast the vision?
As leaders, we understand the vision better than anyone else in the organization. Bill Hybels was correct when he said “vision leaks”. And yet we too easily forget that no one else embraces the vision like the vision creator. When people are asking questions or throwing out criticisms, they may have simply lost sight of the purpose. Take the time to circle up and recast the big picture for them. When staff or volunteers get lost in the minutia of the details, they can quickly lose sight of the bigger purpose.
Am I avoiding them and perpetuating the situation?
Oftentimes when we feel resistance from someone about the direction or vision of the ministry or organization, we are tempted to avoid him or her. Annoyed or frustrated by their lack of support or the outright criticism, we side-step interactions because we don’t want to deal with them. Could it be their questions are a plea for attention? Do they need you to engage them and help them see your perspective?
Am I fighting too hard to keep them?
Not everyone will fully embrace your vision. It might not be what they are actually called to support. Different churches reach different people for a reason. If there is someone who is constantly questioning and pushing back on the vision, perhaps it’s just time for him or her to move on to a ministry where they better align. When this occurs, sometimes you need to be the one to open the conversation and employ a spirit of “agreeing to disagree”. Give them permission to move on to a place where they can really embrace the vision.
Is there anything I need to learn?
While we must be careful to not allow every question or criticism to derail the vision, we must also be willing to always look for a kernel of truth. Is there something within this feedback that we need to hear and engage? Could there be something we need to learn? Filter every criticism through prayer, wisdom, and discernment before discarding it.
Aristotle is quoted as saying, “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” Receiving criticism is a part of leadership. There will always be those who question and criticize the vision of your ministry. As a leader, you must develop Godly discernment and wisdom to find a healthy way to navigate the feedback while staying focused on the vision you sense God has called you to.