Frustrations are common in the church, just as in any organization. However, the way we see them and how we handle them can be a true game changer!
As leaders, you and I likely share a common love for the church.
Yet there are days, maybe seasons, where the flaws of the church feel particularly frustrating. But that’s no more problematic than someone saying that they love people, but on occasion, people can be frustrating.
It’s what we do with that frustration. And this includes both staff leaders and volunteer leaders. We’re in this together.
Some merely complain and criticize, while others seek solutions, serve, and lead the way to improvement. It really is that simple.
The human experience will always include imperfection; good leadership focuses on all the good the church can do and, in a constructive spirit, deals honestly with the flaws that merit attention.
4 Common Church Frustrations
1) Good leaders make mistakes.
Good leaders, even great leaders, make mistakes. This isn’t an excuse; it’s reality. We know this is true, but sometimes have expectations of ourselves or others that leave little to no room for error.
Mistakes are part of the territory when we are making progress and taking new ground. (We’ve never been there before!) But candidly, I’d be more concerned if you never made mistakes because you would likely be playing it too safe.
Learning from our mistakes is how we grow as leaders and lead the church even better. The test for good leadership is not the absence of mistakes but that we are not repeating the same mistakes.
Mistakes can be very frustrating from any angle or perspective, but they are truly common to life and any organization.
2) Good volunteers can let you down.
I’ve known some of the most wonderful volunteer leaders who seemed to drop their responsibilities.
Yes, sometimes even the best of volunteers can let you down. That’s never easy, and it can be frustrating.
But there is usually a reason behind the behavior. Sometimes we drop the ball in our leadership, and sometimes it’s the volunteer, but in both cases, an honest conversation is the best first step.
This has been a strange and difficult couple of years. However, extra grace between leaders and volunteers goes a long way to rebuilding teams. Have the honest conversations, value the relationship, and focus on purpose and calling.
3) Some attendees have an agenda other than God.
All are welcome to worship, but none should be allowed to hijack your purpose and vision.
Difference of opinion is also welcomed, but the unity of the body of Christ is the priority.
Jesus calls us to love everyone, but He never surrendered His mission to someone with a contradictory agenda.
Hold strong to the purpose of Christ and your vision to see Jesus’ name lifted up. Of course, we must always be genuinely kind, but there is no need to apologize for sticking to the Gospel message and saying no to competing agendas.
Rest confident in knowing you can’t go wrong if your defense is for the Gospel.
We should respect the right of everyone to champion their agenda, and we can still be friends, but we have no obligation to hand over the keys of influence for the mission of the church.
4) The community forms its own opinion without participating.
We are all grateful for those outside the church who appreciate the positive impact of the church in the community.
But it truly is frustrating when those who don’t know you and have never attended, perhaps not even online, have formed negative opinions.
I have good news and bad news for you here.
The bad news is that this never entirely goes away, there are seasons where it’s higher and lower, but it’s always with us.
The good news is that you don’t have to be held hostage to the negative attacks and corresponding discouragement from unknown enemies of the church, especially from snipers on social media. Just let it go and keep doing what God has called you to do.
As leaders, we are called to love everyone, but we don’t have to personally absorb unfounded criticism or attacks from those with no other agenda other than to hurt the church.
I have included four frustrations, there are others you can name, and they can sometimes get the best of you. But let me offer words of encouragement and a few more thoughts you can take action on.
Remembering one of the most foundational elements of the church helps us all deal with the reality of frustration.
Jesus is the head of the church.
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.Colossians 1:15
As leaders, we carry the weight of ministry, responsibility for good decisions, stewardship of resources, and shepherding people, but Jesus carries more than we do. In fact, it’s His Church, and He holds it all together.
The more we all humbly recognize, remember, and embrace this powerful truth, the better the church and the better we all do.
Jesus even helps us carry our leadership frustrations.
Yes… I truly do know how lofty and impractical that sounds, but it’s still true.
Here’s why I included it.
Jesus makes the church’s purpose, priorities, and parameters very clear. The better we (leaders and congregation) follow them, the more progress we make because we focus on the right things.
When we lean into that perspective, the number of complaints and criticisms lowers substantially, and we can focus on the real issues that truly need leadership to bring change.
It is both weighty and a privilege that Jesus has transferred His authority to those in leadership, yet that authority doesn’t belong to us, it’s on loan, and we are to be good stewards of that spiritual authority.
It’s also important to acknowledge that this authority is not equated with power; it’s connected to responsibility.
The more authority we carry, the greater the responsibility we carry.
One of the best practical ways to connect with the truth of Jesus being the head of the church is summed up well by our Founding Senior Pastor, Kevin Myers. He calls it:
“MVS” — Mutual Voluntary Submission.
It’s powerful when it’s practiced from a heart level.
And it begins with submission to the head of the church. Jesus. His example of submitting to the Father in all things sets the standard for us all.