Steps to Healthy Growth in Ministry Relationships

By Susan Lawrence

“My senior staff member just went behind my back and told my volunteer team about plans for significant change in my ministry before I was informed. What’s up with that?”

“Why can’t my team just do what needs to be done without being babysat? What happened to personal motivation and responsibility?”

“It’s time for change, and I don’t care what the rest of the staff thinks. They need to get on board or leave.”

Working with ministry staff and volunteers is tough. Individuals bring their teams different personalities, experiences, and skills; and those differences can lead to conflict, resentment, and exasperation. Add the passion that most people (hopefully) feel in ministry, and interactions and responses intensify.

What can you do about it?


Realize variety is a part of God’s plan.
Differences are intended to unite, not divide.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Romans 12:4, 5).

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other (1 Corinthians 12:21-25).


Become familiar with your team.
Your team needs to function as a unit, but it does so only when each individual functions well. In order to encourage each individual, you must know one another’s talents, skills, personalities, fears, experiences, struggles, gifts, leadership skills, and more. You can’t know everything about each other, but you can strive to learn more. Spend time together outside regular meetings. Occasionally move the meeting site to a fresh or unique location. Invite the team’s families on an adventure. You’ll learn and grow together through these new experiences.


Share goals, strengths, personalities.
A myriad of assessments are available to help discover personal strengths and styles: the StrengthsFinder test, DiSC, the Gary Smalley personality test (developed with John Trent), and many others. Decide which one will serve your purpose best. Factors you should consider include:

• The reliability of the assessment. Choose a tool that’s well respected, established, and recommended by others you know in ministry.

• Your goals for using the results. Decide what you want to accomplish with the assessment, so you gather the information you most need.

• Potential costs, taking into consideration fees for future applicants, staff, and team members.

• Ease of facilitating team development through the results. Consider inviting someone outside your team to facilitate team-building experiences, which can be structured over weeks or months, or concentrated in a weekend retreat with intentional follow-up. The facilitator might be someone with experience with the specific assessment you choose, a respected ministry leader from a nearby church, or a church member with team-building experiences (and discretion).

You might look around and wonder What was God thinking? but you can be certain he doesn’t make mistakes. He has a purpose for where you are, and it’s not simply about what you can personally do in ministry. It’s about the relationships surrounding you, including what others can do for you. Most important, where you are is about walking alongside each other in ministry and life, growing in your relationships with each other and God.

Use your God-given strengths and gifts to lead and serve, and everyone benefits: you, those around you, and God’s kingdom. Accept yourself as God created you to be, so you can live the life God intends you to live, messy ministry relationships included.

Susan Lawrence facilitates ministry team retreats and workshops to encourage healthy individual and team growth. She’s a national speaker and author of Pure Purpose, Pure Emotion, and Pure Growth Bible studies. She regularly blogs at and has coordinated women’s ministries, small group ministry, and Christian education at Taylorville (Illinois) Christian Church.

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