When Ministry Leaders Collide: 3 Tips for Resetting Relationships

I sat in one of the ministers’ offices feeling frustrated over some challenges I was facing with a fellow volunteer. After patiently listening to my concerns, the ministry leader leaned in and gently said, “I think the two of you are more alike than you think.” Being a bit taken aback, I reacted with a half laugh, half sigh. While I didn’t think that what the minister said was the case, there was probably some truth there. It’s easy for ministry leaders—volunteer or paid—to get into scuffles for many reasons. Disagreements may come about due to a conflict in vision, administrative skills, management styles, or any number of other triggers. Yet there is hope for these relationships most of the time. For ministry leaders, unity is all the more important. While those who follow us will not expect perfection, they do deserve to see Christ-centered, God-honoring relationships modeled for them. Discord between leaders can cause strife and division in the Body and seriously damage a ministry.

Three Biblical Truths That Relate to Resetting Relationships

1. Chase after Peace

Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” I love how this verse makes it clear right off the bat that it is not always possible to live at peace with everyone. This should cause us to let out a deep sigh of relief and to sleep a bit more restfully at night. It can be tempting to fret over relationships that we work hard at, only to find the other party non-reciprocal. I am guilty as charged. Yet, we learn through this verse that reconciliation is not always possible on our part. Relationships are two-way streets that require give and take. So, as much as is possible for us, we should strive for peace. We should seek peace. We should model peace. We should pray for peace. This is easier said than done, but the Word of God provides ample advice and instruction on how we can intentionally chase after peace with others. James 1:19 is a prime example, and that’s what we will look at next.

2. Listen More and Speak Less

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” These challenging and comforting words are from James 1:19. One of the primary points of conflict in relationships is lack of healthy communication. So often, we listen to respond rather than listening to hear and understand. In other words, while one person is speaking, we half-listen (or completely tune them out) as we think about what we’re going to say next. Internally (and sometimes verbally) we rush them to hurry up and finish what they’re saying so that we can speak. James says this is the exact opposite of how we should interact with one another. While the main focus of this verse is anger, as evidenced by the subsequent verse that speaks specifically to that emotion, it also demonstrates that we cannot live a righteous life or live in harmony with one another as believers unless we listen more and speak less. This is certainly true when it comes to working with fellow ministry leaders.

3. Put on Love

Finally, Colossians 3:14 tells us to “put on love.” It goes on to say this love binds all other virtues together in—here’s the best part—perfect unity. We put on love after clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Col. 3:12). It is quite a challenge to demonstrate these virtues to others, even to fellow ministry leaders. Nevertheless, we are called to bear with each other and forgive one another (Col. 3:13). What is really neat is that this message is for all believers. Not only are you called to bear with your challenging colleague, but she or he is also called to bear with you, too! Since we’re in the same boat, why not strive to be compassionate and kind and humble and gentle and patient with one another? This is what demonstrates our love for our fellow brothers and sisters. If we treat each other this way consistently, we are less likely to experience turmoil that gets us tangled up in negative thoughts and feelings and distracts from the focus of our ministry.

Change Comes from the Lord

I started off by referencing some negative emotions I once experienced towards a fellow ministry leader. I realized that there was more that I could do to live at peace. I could have listened more and spoke less. I should have put on a little more love—and, oh, how I should have been more humble. None of this means that the relationship would have been perfect, but it is likely that there would have been a little less conflict and a lot more focus on what really mattered: Jesus. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says that a cord of three strands is not easily broken. When we get distracted by our own issues that get in the way of relationships, we turn the spotlight on the humans in the relationship rather than keeping it centered on the Lord. Yet, when we center our focus on our relationship with God, we are more likely to have healthy and strong relationships with other people.

Two Are Better Than One

Ministry leaders have a special calling and an awesome responsibility. We can accept the fact that we’re all human and won’t always get along perfectly, while also keeping in mind that if we are not careful to swiftly and biblically handle conflicts, it can have a detrimental effect on those we lead. Ministry is tough enough; trying to go at it alone makes it tougher. It is well worth the effort to be in unity with fellow leaders. I’ll close with Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” Amen!

About the Author

Laurel Shaler

Dr. Laurel Shaler is a national certified counselor and licensed social worker. She is an Associate Professor at Liberty University and writes and speaks on the intersection of faith, culture, and emotional well-being. Dr. Shaler is the author of several books including Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back. She and her husband, an officer in the Navy Reserves, have one daughter and live in South Carolina.