St. Paul told us this would happen.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you!’” (1 Cor 12:21)
As a global youth ministry, we have been singing “We Are One Body” since World Youth Day 1993 (those of us in Denver that summer still have that song in our heads), and we still deal with Core team conflicts? What are we doing wrong? The answer: Nothing.
In fact, if your team has conflicts of any kind—personality, programming, whether or not to put anchovies on the pizza—rejoice (just a little) because you must be doing something right. Look at who else had “Core team” issues:
“An argument started among the disciples as to which would be the greatest.” (Luke 9:46)
So don’t be alarmed. You have created a welcoming ministry that has attracted people who love Christ and want to work in His service but have their own personalities. Sometimes the differences are hard to deal with. Some people might truly need to step down, or in some cases be removed from the team, but in most cases, it simply comes down to people not getting along. WDJD (What Did Jesus Do)?
“Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all-he is the greatest.’” (Luke 9:47-48)
Ours is a welcoming ministry, and if we are true to Christ’s call we must welcome all of God’s people, youth and adults alike. As the transforming power of God’s love works in each of us we need to remember that we are all welcome—and needed—to build the Kingdom as a body.
As a body, we are blessed with many parts. Some team members are terrific organizers, no detail slips by them. Some members are the hands and feet of Christ. Others are amazing in front of the crowd, while other team members are better one-on-one. While all can contribute to the ministry, some need more help to see the vision. Some members are admittedly “still learning the ropes,” and some are “more work than the kids.” How do we manage this strange mix of people, keep the peace, and provide good ministry?
The Problem: Pride and Pace
Ministry is a challenging call to answer. We want to be proud! We want to compete well, finish the race, keep the faith! (2 Timothy 4:7) We want bold witnesses to proclaim the love of God to adolescents. But if we forget humility (to be kind to each other) we start to bother one another.
Then we get rushed. Most ministry teams I work with are staffed by very busy people. Everyone is on edge. Tired and rushed people tend to be “cranky”. Strike two.
A history of a group often dictates relationships amongst its members. If you have ever been the new team member, you understand the process. There might be an “Old Guard” vs. a “New Vision,” both championed by passionate leaders. Strong wills clash. Even Peter and Paul had major disputes after Jesus pressed the “Up” button on the Almighty Elevator. No one questions the passion either of them had for the Church.
There are many ways to address these inevitable conflicts, but we shall focus on three ideas to try ASAP.
Relationships, Affirmation, Re-TREAT
As a Core team, you have all been called together to provide good ministry. But we are also building and modeling relationships with one another. I make a point of reminding our team of 1 John 4:11, Since God loved us, we should love one another. How we get along with one another is as much a presentation of the Gospel as the lesson we will teach. As the song goes, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
So give some attention to the relationships in the team. If your team has become a task-driven group, schedule a dinner night with no work on the agenda. I try to have one dinner a month with my team, just to keep up with what’s going on with us all, personally, professionally, spiritually. Ministry is not about accomplishing tasks, it’s about journey.
At the end of every event, I gather my leadership team, if for no other reason, to thank them for all of their hard work. I try to publicly thank leaders for a particular effort so others in the group know what contributions have been made. Try to point out the behind-the-scenes people. We have an unending supply of affirmation to distribute to our teams, so don’t be stingy with it! Think of these affirmations as youth ministry paychecks.
Plan a one-day Re-TREAT for your team. Keyword: TREAT. A day at the beach, ballpark or local amusement park for the sole purpose of having fun together is a great way for members of the team to see others in a different context. Make the event interactive so people can relate to one another (avoid the movies). Keep the budget small so everyone can afford to attend, or include these outings in the parish budget (in the same manner you would budget hospitality items for the teens). A mini-golf tourney and dinner is an example of any easy, inexpensive treat for those who serve. Make a cheap, fun “Core Team Cup” for the winner and put it on display: you’ll have a reminder of the positive feelings created during the re-TREAT!
The deepening of relationships between Core members can be the beginning of better ministry.