I stood in exhausted shock after the first women’s ministry event I coordinated. I was the hero of the day, and I couldn’t quite take it all in. After waving good-bye to the last gushing attendee, I looked at my friend Peggy and said, “I have no idea what to do with all of that praise.”
She smiled wickedly. “Don’t worry. The criticism is coming.”
She was right.
Within weeks I heard that there were a group of women in the church commenting negatively about my leadership. The euphoria of the past event was a fast-fading victory in the face of harsh criticism.
“This isn’t what I signed up for,” I whined to God. Things had seemed to be going so perfectly, but now I couldn’t see anything except the negative. There’s nothing that drains the joy from leadership like conflict with others.
During that time, God directed me to the book of Acts during my morning reading. It wasn’t very far into my study when I realized church leadership has been messy from the beginning. Peter and John were imprisoned, and Stephen was stoned. Peter and Paul argued over traditions. Paul and Barnabus parted ways when they couldn’t agree on ministry partners.
God makes it clear in the Bible that ministry isn’t perfect in any way, but my over-glamorizing and perfectionism has led to disappointment over and over. Worse, it’s caused friction with my team or the women I’m leading.
Relationships shatter when we value perfection over people.
Fortunately, I was ready to learn a new way of thinking when I faced being the object of gossip. Although I wanted to cling to my grudge against the women talking behind my back, a wise mentor urged me to forgive them and to pray for a renewed love for them.
She helped me to give up the hurt caused by imperfect circumstances. Once my emotions were under control, I began to put myself in their shoes. The conflict ended with a healing conversation in which I was able to let these women know that I cared about their concerns and I’d always give a listening ear if they came straight to me.
Ministry is messy, but Jesus gave just two commands that cover all the others, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10: 27 NIV)
If we’ll love God, prioritizing time to strengthen our relationship with Him, and we’ll love people by prioritizing them over our own ideas of perfection, ministry will still be hard, but it will always be worth it.
Share in the Comments: How have you learned to value people over perfection?