You have all heard that being a leader means serving. It means serving the leaders in your team, serving the teens in your ministry, serving the church as a whole. Being a leader also means serving those placed above you, like your pastor. The upcoming posts will be about how you can serve your pastor or, if you’re working in a different setting, anyone else placed above you (please mind that while I’m using ‘he’ and ‘him’, this could very well be a ‘she’ and ‘her’). Today we will focus on serving while disagreeing.
Your pastor may be the godliest man ever to walk the face of the earth, but that doesn’t mean you will always agree with him. There will be times and instances where you will in fact strongly disagree. Serving means ‘battling out’ those differences in private, as a way of showing respect for your pastor. As a leader, make it a point to never publicly disagree with your pastor, unless the setting specifically allows it. If you do publicly disagree, you will run the risk of hurting yourself, the other and the community. I’ll explain why.
Public disagreements hurt your reputation
First of all, who says you’re right? I am very critical by nature, which is something I have to work on, but that doesn’t always mean I’m right. I have confronted pastors (and others to be sure) about issues, only to find out later that they had it right. Even when you have far more experience than someone above you, don’t assume you’re right. And being publicly wrong can seriously hurt your reputation. Secondly, you don’t want to be seen as a glass half-empty person, as someone who’s always finding fault in others or quite simply as a nay-sayer. It’s not attractive, it’s not good for your reputation and if you’re not careful, people will avoid working with you altogether.
Public disagreements hurt the other
If you publicly disagree with your pastor, you risk the chance of seriously hurting him. Being a pastor is a tough job and pastors are not seldom rather unappreciated. Nobody likes to be criticized publicly, but factor in the loads of criticism pastors often have to endure already and you have all the ingredients to seriously hurt, or even break somebody. Your remark may just be that straw that breaks the camel’s back. Losing face publicly may cause your pastor to do something he regrets, or to lose faith in himself and to question his calling. Honor your pastor when others are present and don’t disagree with him.
Public disagreements hurt the community
Jesus told us that our unity as Christians is the biggest testimony we have, it’s the ultimate ‘proof’ that we are in fact God’s children. As leaders, we need to do everything we can to protect that unity, to promote community. Public disagreements, no matter how ‘civil they may be’ put a strain in that unity. Not everyone can deal with disagreements and you may tempt some to lose their temper, causing them to say things they will regret later. You don’t want to be the one to cause that.
Disagreements can often be prevented by open communication. When I was on staff in my last church, I had lunch with my pastor twice or so a week to discuss things in youth ministry. We talked about the ‘state of affairs’ and I often communicated my position on several important matters then. It was a great way for the both of us to build a good working relation and to hear each other’s opinions in a relaxed setting. When something would ‘officially’ come up in a meeting, we both knew where we stood and there was rarely any cause for disagreement.
But preventing disagreements may not always be possible. So how can you handle disagreements? Speak with your pastor or leader privately. Make sure he is ‘ready’ for your words, so don’t go rushing after him immediately after a difficult meeting or when you can see he’s still raw or emotional. Pick the right time and place and choose your words with care. It’s perfectly okay to disagree, just communicate it with love.
Tell your pastor you value him as a leader, but that you disagree or have concerns. It doesn’t guarantee that your pastor will listen to you, follow your suggestions or even appreciate what you’re saying. It does however guarantee that you have voiced your opinions in the best way possible, with respect for his position.
There are situations where you can publicly disagree with your pastor. Brainstorm sessions are a good example, you are free to disagree with what anyone is saying (in the right phase of brainstorming, mind you!) Anytime when your opinion is asked directly, you can voice it as well obviously, just make sure you do it with respect.
Have you ever witnessed a public disagreement between a leader and the pastor? How did that make you feel? Do you have any other suggestions to prevent disagreements?