It’s no secret that people are the strongest advantage of any venture or establishment.
Our creativity, our curiosity and even our humour keep the cogs of an organisation turning. Add to this a sense of vision and passion, purpose and drive, and an average worker becomes a dynamic superpower of productivity.
Even more successful is when both sides manifest the results.
Personal growth spurs on organisational growth.
Personal vision enhances the shared vision.
Personal purpose triggers an intense personal drive to carry the organisation to even greater heights.
The potential of a single employee who is valued and empowered is limitless.
So why do churches and missions score so poorly on basic member care?
Too often, “doing God’s work” results in traumatized families, exhausted workers, and battered individuals who are cast adrift and left shattered in little pieces of mental health.
Something in our church/mission/service methods is terribly out of balance.
And until we address the poisoning of once-servant hearts and the beating down of once-strong servers, we are as guilty as John Newton of human exploitation before his life-changing revelation to respect and nurture his fellow man.
I’m sure there are many variations or subtitles for these, but here are a few of the church and mission lies we naively take on board:
Resolving conflict means apologizing for existing.
Someone undermining your proven results? Play nice and let them smash your sandcastle.
Someone screaming at you because they had a bad day? Apologize for getting in their way.
The ongoing expectation on mission and church staff to take the blame for each others’ misdemeanours is atrocious.
Rather than dealing with lousy attitudes or angsty staff, the powers-that-be instruct these genuine servers to “make peace and apologize” simply for unknowingly walking through the arena when the bull was loose.
We are taught to hold shame for circumstances and people beyond our control.
Meanwhile, the conflicts remain both unresolved and dissolvent.
Pride before professionalism.
“We can’t let you apply for this role (which you’re already half-carrying while the position is empty) because the only other applicant is under qualified and their ego will be hurt if you take on the title as well as the workload.”
This was a manager’s response to a stable employee’s request to apply for a different role in a Christian organisation.
“Well, we DID say their employment was conditional on , but… well they didn’t.”
This was a Christian board member’s response as to why a fellow employee was allowed to ignore a directive from the Board which – if followed – would drastically cut costs, improve team camaraderie, and provide a stronger platform from which to carry out the work.
Thank goodness hospitals don’t let their doctors tantrum their way out of following standard hygiene practices.
Grace means being a doormat.
One role in a Christian setting came under fire, when the previous role-holder took offense at the newcomer’s natural skills and passionate work ethic.
When offense turned nasty and resulted in verbal bullying and false accusations being flung to an international level, the response from management was that the hard worker should “be the bigger person” and let it go.
The result of telling believers that they must take without complaint the arrows being fired by other believers, is simply that they bleed out silently.
Then, when they finally collapse from blood loss, the carcass is saluted, removed and replaced by another warm “bum on a pew”. What is not resolved is the fact that there are still arrows being fired into their ranks by their own people.
Ethics and equity demand respect and decorum from ALL employees.
Even the Christian ones.
Mission/church work has a log in their eye that secular work doesn’t.
And that is the mission itself.
The act of ministry becomes so all-encompassing that the actual ministers (aka the people) end up merely becoming commodes – useful places to defecate, flush, repeat.
Church and mission work teaches us that we are expendable. Our exploitation is acceptable. We will be used and abused, run into the ground, and maybe even thrown under the bus as a worthy sacrifice in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Attrition in missions and churches is blaring for attention.
But it’s going to take bold resolve to make effective changes within faith-based structures.
Because it’s NOT okay to brush staff conflict issues under the carpet.
It’s NOT okay to ignore the bullies who are tearing down your strongest workers.
It’s NOT okay to turn a blind eye to the deep rifts of disillusionment forming in your ranks.
It’s time for every church group, mission field, and Christian organisation to pull up their big kid pants and confront this face on.
To listen clearly to their genuine workers. Especially the quiet ones.
To bring sound management to interpersonal conflict.
To address both the problems and the problem people with kindness and professionalism.
Because doing nothing is no longer an option.
There’s a powerful Maori proverb that rings true for every aspect of life: business, relationships, and – yes – even church and missions.
Not only is it a good place to start, it is also a reminder of what God Himself sees when He looks at our church outreaches, our mission expeditions, or our efforts of service and faith.
Moreover, it’s what He wants us to see when we look at missions or churches as an entity:
He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. It is people, it is people, it is people.
Emma is an Italian-South African with a New Zealand passport and an international heart. She spent years training student choirs and co-running a puppeteering business, before working for a humanitarian organisation in New Zealand (7 years) and Papua New Guinea (3 years). Currently a nomad living between various countries and towns, Emma's deep joy is in writing, music, cooking up an Italian storm, and taking time to listen to people’s stories.
Read Emma's creative expressions at http://www.girlkaleidoscope.wordpress.com or https://pngponderings.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/finding-the-beauty/
Emma’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/emma-mcgeorge.html