From Harm to Harmony: Why becoming more like Jesus is key to having a healthy staff culture

As part of a young church plant, we’ve had plenty of growing pains.

“Oh…you can’t say that on stage?”

“Oh…who needed to be told about that?”

“Oh…we can’t use the church card for that?”

“Oh…who do I report to?”

“Oh…you mean that doesn’t fit our vision?”

My most recent “Oh…” moment was when I had my first review with a new appraisal tool.

After doing the reflection on “Christ-like Character” I was feeling pretty confident. I mean, kids’ ministry lends itself to having an ongoing personal walk with Jesus, being a servant leader, and being trustworthy. The “Leadership” questions were just as affirming. “I have a concrete vision and know how to communicate it well!”, I thought, “And I obviously have the best looking budget of any of the ministries…plus I’m on time!”

But then I got to the “Culture” questions, and realized some things that I didn’t care to admit.

Do I celebrate God’s grace?

Do I empower others early?

Am I part of this spiritual family?

Do I believe the best and work through conflict?

Am I honest in all things?

Do I move fast and embrace flexibility?

Do I take initiative and become the solution?

At first, I felt angry that I hadn’t known that these were our culture benchmarks (remember what I said earlier about growing pains). As a perfectionistic firstborn, I thrive when I’m given concrete expectations. I felt embarrassed that I’d failed to perform, and felt tricked into failing by not knowing what I was supposed to be growing in.

And as I gave myself one 2-out-of-5 after another, I began to blame coworkers and circumstances for my failures. “Well, I would empower others early if my request for an intern had been granted.” “Obviously I believe the best when people aren’t being shady and selfish.” “Clearly I would have been the solution if my plate hadn’t already been loaded up beyond what I can accomplish.” “Who even has time to have fellowship with other believers when all you do is ministry?!”

As I calmed down, I was relieved that this was just the self-evaluation. Then I actually began to do some self-evaluation.

“Who am I kidding…I’m the one who thinks that God can’t handle this without me…no wonder I’m totally burned out…I’m doing it all in my own strength!” “Well how can I be a part of a spiritual family when I won’t let anyone carry any of my burdens?” “I know these people…they’re all friends. I know their motives were pure, even if I disagreed with the methods. Why was I so suspicious of them?” “Why was I such a stick-in-the mud about that new idea? Was I trying to punish them because they aren’t as burned out as me?”

The ugliness of the pride that was lodged in my heart was a little shocking. I immediately thought of Hebrews 12:14-15, which says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”More recently as I read through Acts, I was taken aback by Peter’s rebuke of Simon the Sorcerer. Acts 8:21-23 says, “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

You are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Those selfish thoughts that I’d been harboring in my heart were not just thoughts. The way I was nurturing that bitterness was a malicious sin, and not yanking that root out was going to cost the unity of our team, friendships, and the effectiveness of my ministry.

“Dying to yourself feel like dying.” It’s a phrase I’ve repeated to myself lately as I remind myself that God doesn’t call us to things that are easy, or that will give us the glory…He calls us to look more and more like His Son. And His Son’s purpose was to come and die to make a way for us to be reconciled to the Father. And the more I resemble the Son, the more glory I bring to the Father as I love His bride, the Church.

How about you? What attitudes or “rights” are you clinging to because of self-protection? Where do you need to let Jesus have control of your heart and your ministry? How might relationships between church leaders change if the goal was unity and reflecting Christ to people from the outside looking in? What do you need to do to be reconciled to members of your team?

Whitney Julian

Whitney Julian is the Citylight Kids Director at the Midtown location in Omaha, Nebraska. Citylight Kids exists to help families Meet Jesus, Imitate Jesus, and Share Jesus through the Gospel, Relationships, and Service. She is married to Joe, a pastor, and together they have two girls and a boy. Prior to Citylight, Joe and Whitney spent six years living with youth at Boystown as a Family Teaching Couple. Whitney has a degree in Elementary Education, and has always enjoyed seeing the spark when a child learns something new – especially when they’re beginning to understand and enjoy the Gospel of Jesus!

Six Responses to “From Harm to Harmony: Why becoming more like Jesus is key to having a healthy staff culture”

  1. Whitney, I love this article!!! God gave the world a tool by which to judge the church…”They will know we are Christians by the love we show to one another.”

    • Oh Whitney you don’t know me but I couldn’t be more proud of you if you were my own daughter. God bless you in all you do. It’s really all about love and light!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I have been struggling with pride lately and thinking that I NEED to do it all so it gets done right. How arrogant is that? Then I think, Jesus, who is God, was never arrogant. He spent his life teaching others and being humble. When we get prideful, we silence those around us. Positions and events become “ours” instead of God’s.

    • Beverly, yes, I’ve done the same! And then that pride robs us of a partner in ministry, and the opportunity to help someone develop and grow! Thanks for commenting and sharing how this has affected you…let’s grow in humility together!

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