In my early years of leading women's ministry, I had a problem keeping leaders on my team. Attending our team meetings was not a priority on most of their "to do" lists. Being available to serve at ministry events was an "optional" activity, it seemed, for everyone but a few hard core volunteers. Women from the team quit altogether at the drop of a hat - no notice, no explanation.
I wondered, "What the heck can I do to make these women care about this ministry as much as I do?" I believed that the core problem had to do with them. For reasons beyond my understanding, they were just not sold out on impacting women for Jesus. At least, not sold out enough to actually stick with it for the long haul.
There was one woman who left the team early on who always seemed to have a bone to pick with me. I was heartbroken by this, because prior to being in ministry together she was my friend. One day, I gathered up the courage to ask her what happened.
She said, "Tyler, you are really good at being organized, at planning, and at taking care of the details. But I'm not sure you're the right person to be the leader of women's ministry."
I thought to myself, "Of course you'd say that! You have never liked the fact that I am in this role. You have never respected me as a leader. You have a bone to pick with me!"
She continued, "Even though you're good at those things, you're missing an important ingredient. You don't care. You don't have the heart. You don't love us as people. All you are concerned about is that everyone gives as much as you do. When we have life circumstances that get in the way, you only care about how that affects the ministry. You simply don't care about us and our lives."
The conversation continued for nearly an hour, with many tears on both our parts. It was a devastatingly painful conversation. I had always believed that one of my gifts was empathy, yet she was telling me that I was terrible at it. I believed that God had placed a loud and clear call on my life to minister to women, yet she said I didn't have what it takes to be a leader.
I wept and prayed on and off for five days, begging God to heal my broken heart (read: to show me how wrong she was). But the pain in my heart did not ease. On the sixth day I reluctantly changed my prayers and began asking God to weed through her words for me - to show me what words I should ignore, but more importantly to reveal to me the parts of what she said that were true.
Almost immediately, I sensed His answer in my heart. He asked me, "Daughter, have you cared for these women whom I have placed in your charge and under your leadership?" I knew that the answer was no. But I didn't know exactly how to care for them better. Thus began my journey in learning to truly love the women on my team - for who they were instead of for what they did for the ministry. Though Satan intended the cruel words of a hurting woman to beat me down and discourage me, God could use them to grow and mould me.
Lesson #1 - Women need to feel loved. This is not only true in marriage, but in work and ministry as well. If you want to build a team that sticks together for the long haul, sold out for your (God's) vision, you must learn to love them in a way they understand.
Lesson #2 - All advice that is given to you - even that which is laced with vindictive intent - should be sifted by God. He will use every experience (especially the painful ones) to weed out the junk in our lives that prevents us from leading with excellence.
His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. ~Matthew 3:12Building Your Ministry, part two - How to Love on Your Team - coming soon.