Stuck, stymied and stalemated. That’s how I feel when I serve on some ministry teams. I like synergy, shared ideas, and community. I like connectivity. I like for our ministry to be stronger as a result of working together. When all this coalesces, serving on a ministry team is a joy. Yet, there is a flip side. And when I am on a team where words are twisted, intentions misconstrued, and mistrust reigns, I am miserably frustrated. The risk of serving on ministry teams is some people have clear ideas about how to do the ministry and they don’t match your ideas at all.
Out of her experience as a director of a food bank in San Francisco, Sara Miles in her book, Take this Bread, shares, “You don’t get to practice Christianity by hanging out with people who are like you and believe what you believe. You have to rub up against strangers and people who frighten you and people you think are misguided, dangerous, or just plain wrong.”
Oh the aggravation of rubbing up against people who are not like me and don’t believe what I believe, or worse, people who don’t want to do ministry the way I like to do it. The frustration overwhelms me and makes me want to declare the other person just plain wrong. Sadly, I am not in charge of who God calls to ministry and how she/he lives out that calling. There are times when I would think it much easier if I got to decide whose voice counted and whose did not.
Sitting in a food court with an experienced (my way of saying “This is not her first rodeo”) minister, I made the comment, “When I am in charge, I am going to make this ministry the way I want it.” She smiled and asked, “And do you realize there will be a person coming along in ministry saying the same thing about you and the way you do ministry?” Her words jolted me because in that moment I realized that my way doing of ministry must frustrate the daylights out of some people.
When I am engaged with someone who doesn’t do it the way I would or who could be declared, “just plain wrong,” I remember I am just plain wrong to others. It is challenging and humbling to strive for unity in ministry teams. However, we don’t get to choose who God calls to the table.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.