Addie ProvidenceDear Addie,

Someone I respect recently suggested that my skin may not be “thick enough” to serve on a church staff.  This worries me, because I’m preparing for church ministry.  While I hate conflict and can be overly sensitive to criticism, I love the church and want to spend my life serving it. Will my sensitivity be an issue?  How do I grow thicker skin?

Thin Skinned


Dear Thin Skinned,

Being a sensitive person probably means that you are attentive to the feelings and needs of those around you, which is a great asset for ministry.   Sensitive ministers can be exceptionally effective in expressing God’s love and grace in thoughtful, creative, untried ways.  Sensitivity is something to celebrate in your ministry.  At the same time, this is a gift that suggests what your growing edge needs to be.

Given your love and commitment for the church, hear the words of your friend not as a vocational dead end, but as a reminder to balance the feelings you experience throughout your ministry with the constant pursuit of God’s vision for your ministry.  Sensitive ministers can be so relational that their primary ministry goal becomes trying to please everyone.  This will prove to be impossible, impractical, short-sighted and unhealthy.   A better goal for ministry is to help the church discern God’s vision.  While striving to follow Christ’s vision may offer you new lessons in church conflict, this will also lead you to meaningful and significant ministry.

As you seek God’s vision for your ministry, your ministry skin will grow thicker.  Thin skin ministers constantly focus on how they are doing, how great or weak their skills and talents are, what kind of leadership they provide, and what their reputations are.  Thick skin ministers can move beyond these concerns and focus on being faithful to the big picture God provides, helping others experience God’s great love, and participating in what the Spirit is doing in the world.

To stay balanced as they spin, ballet dancers look for a particular spot to focus on each time they turn.  Focusing on the point they choose keeps them from falling.  Church ministry keeps us spinning, too. Our tasks can become so chaotic, that we can lose our focus and falter.  When we are wise, we keep our eye on Christ’s vision.

May this way of approaching the chaos and conflict that comes with ministry, keep you dancing in the middle of it—and help your skin grow.




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*The photo of Addie Davis is provided courtesy of Special Collections, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.