by dan grider
Dealing with Cantankerous Mission Robbing People
What is worth your life mission?
We have all encountered “high maintenance.” difficult church attenders. A few years ago a couple started to attend our church. They seemed to be very generous. We noticed an immediate financial impact. The increase made a difference to our strained budget. It wasn’t long until they began to want to meet with me. I soon discovered that they had unreasonable expectations of me and the church. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that on the front end. I was too focused on trying to keep them and their giving, and the “supposed opportunity” to disciple them. As you can imagine, it didn’t take long to find out we had a problem on our hands.
We had been working hard to make some good changes to our church ministry structure. I was sure we were hitting it out of the park. To my surprise they were very unhappy. Not only did they not see the changes that we had made, they didn’t even acknowledge the amazing life change that was happening in the church around them. They focused exclusively on what hadn’t been done. Talk about the-glass-is-half-empty. I was stunned.
Not surprisingly, they left the church a few months later. It was very painful. But as difficult as that experience was, it did lead to some positive outcomes, Starting with me. I began to understand the need to clarify expectations from the get-go.
But here’s where it gets interesting. A few years later that same couple came back to the church and practically begged us to take them back. They talked of how they had seen the light and had changed. They had seen how they missed the best opportunity to be in an amazing place where the Spirit of God was at work. They asked me to give them another chance, and move on from their past behavior. I did. I naively believed them. I was certainly more cautious this time. I thought this second time would be different.
They’ve changed, I told myself. I even assured my staff—and my wife—that they had changed. Besides, I reasoned, I have also changed. I’m a stronger and better leader this time around. I was wrong on both counts.
They had not changed. They still were demanding and unreasonable, as they had always had been. They could turn on the charm when needed, but fundamentally, they were narcissist. Nothing I could do—or could ever do—would change them. It was all about them.
But unfortunately I hadn’t changed much either. I am admittedly a slow learner. Especially when it comes to judging people. The redemptive pastoral side has sabotaged me. Most church planters tend to be optimistic leaders who want to believe the best about people. My advice is listen to your spouse and your staff.
Take away points from this experience:
1- Some people will always be high-maintenance. They live and operate out of their “woundedness.” Remind your self, “I am not the Holy Spirit. I can’t change them, and I am not called to please them, I’m never going to please them. I will sacrifice what really matters, and only exhaust myself trying.
2- High-maintenance people will always be a distraction. They consume more than their fair share of resources. If I let them, they will suck up everything I and my team have to offer. I am not being the leader that the Father has called me to be if I allow them to eat away at the church that Jesus is building. Regardless of how much they give, their giving is not worth the damage that they are creating. Allowing them to continue this behavior is not good for them either.
3- They keep me from serving others. It’s really not fair to my staff and the others that I serve to try to make them happy. I am better off to say “no” and trust the Father to meet our financial needs, than to sacrifice the mission by keeping them around. This is a test of your ability to trust the Father for your financial needs.
I don’t mean to sound unkind, but there are just some people you are not called to care for and serve at the price of your mission. You can spend all your time caught up in the drama of their demands and accusations, or you can fulfill the calling that is on your life. Nothing is worth the mission that you have sacrificed to launch.
The sooner you cut the cord and move on, the more productive—and content—you’ll be. No matter how big the opportunity appears to be, it’s just not worth the cost of the vision that you have been called to. You can spend your time caught up in the drama of these life sucking people, or you can get back to the reason you were put here on this earth.