Not always rewarding

When you’re in church ministry you have to take a lot of rubbish, of people whose attitudes are working against what you are trying to achieve and what you all, in theory, agreed was what you believe God wants.

You can spend hours preparing something, working with people, building on a vision that everyone says they share – only to find that, behind the scenes, there is grumbling and whingeing.


And of course, you’re the last one to know … no matter how many times you say to people, ‘Please be honest with us and say things to our faces, then we can work on the changes together. If you just grumble to each other, how are things going to change?’

This piece of reasoning falls on deaf ears :lalala:. It is more fun grumbling.

I’m not talking about things against myself personally. But in ministry you have to learn to empty yourself, to really listen to what people are saying – and also, to what they are not saying. You have to read body language, read the rest of the group (how many share this opinion?), tuck your own reactions firmly away and try and listen to God too, so that you keep perspective.

When one or two are very outspoken and always negative, it is very easy for both the ministers and the rest of the church to assume that ‘everyone’ feels the same way. In fact, it is always worth looking at it with care,|-| because the chances are that the negative people are carefully walked-round by everyone else, and nobody has the courage to tackle them because nobody wants the grief.

Of course we work generally on attitudes, through worship and teaching and fellowship … but when we come up against how little impact it seems to have on some people, then it can be thoroughly dispiriting.

Today was such a day. A good walk would have dispelled some of my ‘church blues’, but it is tipping down with rain :**:.

So where do we go, with our own negative feelings? To lose our tempers with the people involved :> would be honest, but entirely counter-productive, because off they would go in a huff, and dine out on how they left the church because of the terrible minister for evermore… :crazy: If we do nothing with our upset and disappointed feelings, ignore them or dismiss them or pretend we don’t have them, they have a habit of coming back when you’re not looking and biting you on the bum 88|.

Hub and I are lucky – we can come home and tip it out to each other. And of course we can – and do – pray :##, because this is God’s job more than it’s ours. But we also have to be honest with ourselves.

So why am I getting upset about this? Is it because I feel unappreciated, unsupported? 😥 If so, tough – you are just feeling sorry for yourself, get over it.

Is it because people are not changing, are not showing the marks of a committed Christian life? Now this is more important – but what can you do, more than you’re doing? The inner transformation is a work of the Spirit. Our job is to provide the opportunity to change – you can’t do it for people :no:. AND – see above. Is this a general problem? Or is it just one or two who have got on your wick today?? Answer the question!! :-/

And it is not a good idea to go around having heated conversations with said people in your head …>:XX

If there’s nothing you can do, do nothing. Dump it in God’s lap, and go and do something to cheer yourself up. :wave:


21 thoughts on “Not always rewarding

  1. One guy once wrote a book here in Nigeria, I think he titled it church politics. I never got myself to reading the book, but sometimes I feel administering a church might be more difficult than administering a whole nation.


    1. I think it’s different, Tayo. When you administer a church you are responsible in a personal way for people’s spiritual lives, and that can be a very heavy responsibility. In government, you can work in a very impersonal way, and your own attitudes don’t matter so much.


      1. That’s probably very true in a way. Some people in government would care less what happens to those they govern. We this presently in the world, in many places.


  2. I have to tell you that this sort of thing doesn’t just happen in churches or amongst people of faith. The volunteers working at a senior citizens’ day care centre in Chingford (NE London) were every bit as bad as this and the centre users were WORSE. Perverse as it may sound, they all seemed to be happiest when they could complain about something and I am convinced that a goodly portion of it was something as unproductive as attention-seeking behaviour. True, this sort of behaviour could be classified as a neurosis and you might even find this helpful in dealing with the more vociferous of the ‘usual suspects.’

    Anyone who is openly critical can be invited to contribute alternative solutions to what they see as problems …this may not go down all that well – but it does tend to cause the general level of criticism to die down (even those people who mutter and shit-stir behind your back will think twice as they MIGHT think that you will come after them for suggestions. Single out the worst of the mutterers for a private chat, tell them that you are aware that they are not happy, because you have heard this from various sources (refuse to discuss who you heard it from).

    When faced with a dilemma like this, it is best to do nothing for a day or two and try not to think about it a lot …it is likely that the answer will materialise amongst your thoughts. You can facilitate the process by WRITING about it in some detail …as though explaining all to someone with no prior knowledge of the issues and people …this is not only quite therapeutic in its own right, but can often throw new light on a situation that has appeared stymied as well as a pathway to a solution.

    Any one-size-fits-all code of behaviour is flawed. People will cave in to peer pressure and be less than honest about their level of commitment to an ideology …or believe the words and have no idea that they are falling short of the standards that they contain. I will keep my soapbox in the cupboard concerning christianity (orthodox or otherwise) and say only that there are some people who seem to regard any sort of solid foundation as something you can mount a gun on!

    This might sound odd, coming from a man, but I find a good cry helps get all the negativity out of my system (in my case, being partly gay helps me out).



    1. thanks so much, grillocks, for your considered and helpful and practical reply. In fact that is how I handle things: ‘well, if this doesn’t suit you, then what would you like to do instead??’ The next problem, of course, is that although they may come up with a way of doing things that they think will suit them more, they don’t follow through. So we are still left holding the baby – and doing all the work they said they would do!

      In fact I handed over this particular group to our community minister some months ago, because it is her remit rather than mine. She and I had discussed the ‘under the surface tensions’ and she will have her own take on things and a different way of handling them, which will be good. I feel sorry for her though, because this has the potential to be a very valuable group, except that nobody will take any responsibility, not even for themselves, and nobody ever thinks ahead, or plans. So she has an uphill task – rather her than me, but she knows she has my full support! This is where team ministry can be so helpful.

      I did ponder whether to post on it, but I am glad I did, as people have been so supportive and helpful. A good walk today has also helped!



  3. Why do we so often forget that,ye who are heavily burdoned bring your load unto me and leave it with me. At first i found it hard to leave behind but it can be done, but so often we forget this.XX


  4. Unfortunately, there are divisions and squabbles in a church community just like any other. What is perhaps galling is that there is an ideal model in the figure of Jesus Christ for compromise, truth and harmony – but this is sometimes, sadly overlooked.


  5. Oh crikey Gilly 😦 I do feel for you 😦 The very first church I went to (Anglican Catholic) the congregation had taken against the new priest who was young and eager and married and making babies each year…. and he left, very fed up. I felt terribly sorry for him and I stayed at that church til he left to sort of keep his morale up.

    They’ve never got another priest of their own since and share priests and churches and so on now. I already knew I was going to RC church but I did enjoy my time at that church immensely apart from the meaness to the priest. Don’t know what it was about – I was the new girl and not privvy to whatever it was.

    I think you are WONDERFUL and so I’m sure your hub is too.

    When I gave my lecture on icons to the ecumenical group I had really wonderful feedback and even a card from somebody and all sorts and felt really chuffed. I then found out a group from one church had all moaned about me! :crazy:

    It is weird that Christians can be so unco-operative.

    If you have meetings have you considered having an independent chairperson come in to either observe meetings and give feed back or to actually chair them?



    1. Thank you very much, dt, for the hugs and sympathy and concern and excellent suggestions! I feel more cheered! It isn’t a split in the church, as such – it was a group I got together to run social events, and we talked and prayed together and agreed that this is what we wanted to do because it is an important part of the church’s ministry, to reach out to others with God’s love. I then assumed that everybody understood this, that it was their gift to God. But when our community minister got us together after the service yesterday there was a whole lot of whingeing and complaining and anger that they were having to do EVERYTHING and some of them were even saying they were avoiding the social events because of it.

      These the very people who are supposed to be committed to this ministry! And following on my service, where we had talked about the angel of the church, and been honest about our weaknesses – which include lack of commitment – I sort of thought that something would stick. But I was wrong …

      Fortunately for me, I handed over this area of work to community minister several months ago. She has a different take on things and will come at it from a different angle. But I feel sorry for her, because it’s going to be uphill – just when we were all hoping that FINALLY there might be a group in church that would actually offer some support, instead of complaining, staying away, and leaving us to do most of the work!!

      Ah well. We ministers will get together tomorrow and we’ll talk about it and pray about it and wait to see what God will show us.

      It’s a good job he doesn’t give up on us …

      Wow, your icons talk sounds amazing.


  6. you’re so right. it’s not always rewarding. you have to be a servent to each and every one, and it gets very hard at times. being a spiritual leader, is being on the bottom of the totem pole, or as in the cartoon you posted… being the last in line and having to carry the most stuff too. but it’s a calling.


    1. thank you, Shimon, for your support and encouragement. It’s a good job God doesn’t give up on us – and He ends us carrying all our rubbish. We just think we do.


  7. i can imagine it must be really frustrating. I remember all the infighting at my old Church. A Church abroad is a different thing to a parish church I feel, and we had so many nationalities and traditions it was impossible to please everyone. Unfortunately the pushy ones tend to get their way, and we lost several vicars because of it, and the one we ended up with is a compromise candidate who has caused a lot of younger people to leave the church. Sometimes it really seems that God does indeed work in mysterious ways.


  8. Its strange that you should bring this up as in our parish a few years ago people were grumbling about the priest as he was getting on but still managed to say a service etc but he was demoted a few people had complained about him and what hurt him no one had mentioned a word to him to put right whatever was wrong so the poor man couldnt defend himself this probably happens in every working enviroment too 🙄


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