How to Work with Difficult Congregation Members – Part 3 of the How to Avoid Burnout Series

Are you feeling: Stressed? Overworked? Under appreciated? Disconnected? Overwhelemed? Uncared for? Unloved? These are some of the signs of burnout. Burnout can occur when we regularly exceed our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capacities in our ministries. Combating burnout can take the shape of an extended vacation or even a new job. But to faithfully live on a daily basis in the ministries that God has given us, we need to focus on smaller, well planned, intentional, steps that both protect our current well being and, at the same time, stretch our capacities for new growth. Each of these smaller plans work integrate with each other to build an overall plan for passion, energy, and peace, in your current ministry environment.

Why Don’t They Like Me?

The Stress of Complainers

Ministry and complaining about ministry have been together from the beginning. Whether it is people complaining about ministers or ministers complaining about people, the resulting stress and the decided lack of ministry that comes from complaining can lead to an explosion of burnout.

Burnout can mean we are so frustrated by the complaints of others even as we do our best in ministry that in that frustration we get mad at God. I know I am not afraid to admit that when I am struggling with the complaints of people that I begin to ask God why I was put into ministry at all. But I am not alone and neither are you! Just ask these biblical leaders:

Numbers 11:15—Moses is so frustrated about trying to meet the demands of the people he questions God and even say’s, “Kill Me Now

Jeremiah 20:7-18—Wow, talk about mad at God about what people are saying! Jeremiah wishes he had never been born!

And then there is Paul, the minister’s minister, who was frustrated many times by the actions of people both in and out of the church. He had to fight with the founders of the Church, those practicing the work of the Church very poorly, and even those wanting to kill the Church. (Citations too numerous to list here).

Anyone who spends any time in actual ministry will face a point when it feels like the critics outnumber the supporters. So how do we deal with all of that negative energy and keep it from driving us to burnout?

Talk to God, not about God

The Psalms of Lament provide us with wonderful examples of bringing our frustrations to God. The Psalmist is brutally honest about feelings both toward others and toward God. But the complaining is directed to God. Too often we only complain to others about how we feel about our ministry and our questions about why God has us in our current position. While that can release immediate stress, it is not the solution we need for real healing. We need to be talking directly to God about all things, and yes, that means even when we are mad!

Talk to people, not about people

The Psalmist’s example also applies to others. There are plenty of times when we respond to people who talk about us behind our backs by us talking about them behind their backs! We need to have moments of frank conversation with our critics. Many times issues can be resolved and relationships repaired by taking the time to both speak and listen to each other. Sure it is hard. Yes, there may be “active disagreement.” But the festering that results from unaddressed hurt cripples our ability to be in ministry leading to failure and eventually burnout.

Ultimately the example of Jesus is the answer to our issues with criticism. Jesus was shunned, criticized, betrayed by one of his own, and eventually he was literally crucified by the very people he was trying to reach. Paul saw the ministry of Jesus as a source of strength when he faced his times of frustration in ministry. Perhaps we can learn from Paul’s application of Jesus’ example and with God’s help, learn to do the same.

Dr. Craig Gilbert, a consultant and coach fondly known as The Worship Doctor, is the founder of Purposed Heart Ministries, a worship renewal and education program for all churches. Craig 25 years as a music and worship minister working with choirs, bands, and various artistic groups while leading and designing worship in churches of all sizes and styles. Now he spends his time helping churches across the country imagine what worship could and should be in their local context and then helps them get there! Click HERE to learn more!

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