I feel the need to start off this post by saying that I am not passive aggressively snarking at anyone or anything in my life, job or church right now. This book was recommended to me by a clergy friend of mine a few months ago and I just got around to reading it.
(Lest anybody be wondering who the “dragons” are.)
Ministering to Problem People in the Church
by Marshall Shelley
(find it on amazon here)
This book is a phenomenal read for anyone in vocational ministry. First of all, it is an extremely quick read. I finished it in a few days without a lot of extra time to read. It is not really heavy reading – lots of case studies and common sense ways of handling difficult situations.
I took a few things from the book that I thought I’d throw out there …
- You cannot change people. Stop trying.
- If you have not studied it already, take some time with Family Systems Theory. This is not specifically addressed in the book, but the implication is there: You never know what people are going through. You do not know how people were raised, what happened to them or what they are dealing with at home that is making them act a certain way. We may see a “problem person” that really is someone that is broken and in need of love and grace. The UCC has a saying, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey – you are welcome here.” Do not react to where people are – take a moment to think about how they got there.
- Be realistic – you will not get along with everyone all the time. People will disagree with you. You will make mistakes. Be humble and respond to criticism with grace.
- Surround yourself with good people. Outside perspectives are key.
- Do not get pulled down by the negative things that pop up from time to time. Address them, but focus on the positive.
- I think it is telling that the title of this book is “Well-Intentioned Dragons” and not “Big, Bad, Beastly Dragons”. I realize that there are people in the world with bad intentions – I have read some scary case studies. But I do believe that more often than not problems that pop up in churches come from differing beliefs and values and miscommunication. That kind of stuff is easy enough to get through if everyone is willing to confront the conflict.
- You cannot change people. Stop try … oh wait, I said that already.
Here are some quotes I pulled out to share with you … enjoy!
“But from the beginning a premise stands clear: the goal in handling dragons is not to destroy them, not merely to disassociate, but to make them disciples. Even when that seems an unlikely prospect.”
“Part of the miracle of grace is that broken vessels can be made whole, with even more capacity than before.”
“Even when dragons grab a congregation, God is still in control, and he isn’t wringing his hands. At times the dragons may win – the ministry of a church may come to a standstill for a generation or more, an individual congregation may disintegrate – but dragons cannot destroy the church. Individual congregations are breakable; the church is not.”