Dealing with Opposition
I’ll let you in on a secret: there are politics in your church. Mine, too. Shocking, right? Another secret: people won’t always like what you do, who you are, what you plan, how you preach, where you go, what you wear, why you smile . . . the list goes on.
Take it from a battle-scarred veteran who has faced her fair share of opposition. Here are some dos and don’ts for dealing with challenges to your ministry:
- Carefully choose which battles you’ll fight. It’s like parenting. Wise parents (and youth leaders) know that not every conflict is worth the fight. Save your “I’ll go down with this ship” for when it really counts. It’s a card you won’t be able to play very often—maybe only once.When you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decide, “Yes, I believe I have to stand up for this, be prepared for what comes. See what Scripture says, discuss it with your family, go to your boss next, and begin brushing up your resume just in case you need it. “Over all these things, put on love” was never more appropriate. Stand against the issue, not against people. You lose the war when you become rude and mean. Staying loving, true to the Word, and you’ll move forward much faster.
- Obey what your pastor/boss tells you to do. If opposition exists, you have a moral and biblical obligation to obey your leadership. (This is especially prudent if they’re responsible for the check you take to the bank.) If your leaders are the source of the opposition, then it may be time for you to lead/work somewhere else.
- Keep the youth out of it. It’s wrong on so many levels to discuss opposition issues with your students—even with those in your inner circle. Remember, they’re still children, and you’re the adult. When we signed on for youth ministry, we made the commitment to guard the hearts and minds of the youth under our care.
- Get buy-in from the church at large. Rather than always pushing your plan and vision, how about starting by asking the church what their vision and goals are for the youth ministry? Instead of having to sell people on your ideas, you’ll already know what the church desires. You’ll have so much freedom to move toward that. This almost guarantees buy-in, eliminating all or most opposition. How can there be disagreement when it’s the church’s idea in the first place?
- Don’t pick a side. Seriously—stay out of it. Do your job, do it well, and let others fight whatever battles are being fought.
- Don’t underestimate people and their emotions. When you’re on staff, people watch you during times of opposition. Even be careful around those you think are your closest friends. When emotions are high, the fact that you get paid to do what you do is something people don’t forget.
- Don’t have any parking lot convos. The casual meeting in the church parking lot after the official meeting is often when the gloves come off. Passive-aggressive tendencies abound in these conversations. Parking lot convos are loaded with sentences that begin with, “Please don’t repeat this, but . . . ” or “What I heard was . . . ” Stay away! Even if you know the conversations are about you, just get in your car and head home. It’s the safest place for you. God will meet you there and let you vent to Him.
To sum this up: Get buy-in to avoid opposition. If opposition exists, be careful. Focus on the ministry and your students—they are what matter most.
STEPHANIE CARO has been involved in ministry for more than thirty years. She’s the author of Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches and 99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker. She’s senior consultant for Ministry Architects and lives in Houston with her hubby and puppy.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.