Common Frustrations Between Teams and their Leaders

If you have played in a church setting for very long you should be well aware of the things “left unsaid” or the little aggravations that come along with the territory. As a Worship Pastor I am well aware that many times those frustrations are pointed at me… usually rightfully so.

The church is unlike any other “business” model in the world. Now obviously we aren’t a business… but hang with me for a second. Week in and week out we “present” or attempt to facilitate something, in our case that “something” is worship. But, unlike most businesses 95% of out “staff” or help is unpaid and volunteering their allotted “extra” time out of their already busy schedules. So… there is no wonder why sometimes tensions can be elevated and frustrations can spill over the top and cause an issue.

So… as shepherds, pastors, and leaders how can our leadership help keep people “on board” and as frustration free as possible?

Let’s think together.

  • Learn to communicate in their language.

Have you ever been the victim of a language barrier issue? I’m sure many of you have. Something as simple as the words and speech we all take for granted can become SO frustrating when people just aren’t understanding what we have to say or we aren’t understanding what they have to say.

I believe this happens weekly in most churches in various ministries and it can build up over time and create frustration that will sooner or later spill over. So… as leaders we must take it upon ourselves to learn the vocabulary in which our people speak. Now… I’m not just talking about language here. I am talking about vocabulary specific to the job or ministry we are in.

For me as a Worship Pastor it means that I have to have a working knowledge of many instruments and musical terms. I must know the sounds that I want and know how to communicate them in an effective and clear way. That may mean we have to take some classes, invest some time, or at least have some sample stuff available.

It isn’t our people’s responsibility to know how to understand us… it is our responsibility to know how to help them understand.

  • Learn to instill confidence.

Samuel Johnson once said,

Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.

Nothing is worse than a leader that steals confidence from those on their team. Every good coach creates an environment in which their players know they can rise to the occasion, and through his coaching he enables them to do so. We as leaders should take note of that.

Vince Lombardi said,

Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.

We should be continually looking for ways to build up our volunteers. There will most likely always be mistakes and areas that can be improved upon… but there will also always be some good we can glean from every situation.

  • Allow and encourage creativity. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you were trapped “in the box?”

I sure have… and it wasn’t somewhere where I wanted to stay. Hopefully none of our teams feel this way, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of them probably do. This feeling typically comes along with doing the same thing, in the same way, every single time.

How much creativity and freedom do you allow?

Just as we are always looking for better and more effective ways of doing things we should encourage our teams to do the same. Creativity is a contagious thing!

In my particular field I have to face the facts… the genres of Christian music used in church nowadays are pretty narrow and can become cookie cutter, mass produced, or just “stamped out” week after week. This can be frustrating for my musicians. We must find ways to encourage creativity! For me, that may look like varying the intensity map, or coming up with creative song arrangements or transitions.

What do you need to do?

Let’s not be creativity Nazis… there is plenty to go around!

  • Share responsibility.

People have an innate desire to feel needed, and when that desire goes unmet for lengthy periods of time they get restless or even frustrated. We need to make our teams feel needed!

Now obviously God doesn’t NEED any of us to add to His glory… but He desires our workings and worship. Our ministry may not NEED anyone or anything to accomplish its purpose… but it is better with them. In fact, our mission of shepherding and discipling is in NEED of anyone we can get!

We can instantly create a more functional team by sharing responsibility and enabling those around us to be needed and rise to the task. Sometimes this is easier said than done! Just because we can do something ourselves doesn’t mean that we should do that thing alone or 100% of the time.

Let’s devote ourselves to producing leaders by sharing responsibilities and enabling people to rise to the task of fulfilling those responsibilities.

  • Invest.

Most pastors and finance committees would see this subheading and head for the hills! Unfortunately the need for investment into ministries and people is something that many churches don’t just shy away from… but wholeheartedly sprint the other way from.

Finances in ministry can be a touchy subject… because we are talking about God’s money and our stewardship of it. But… what good is a large bank account if our people are getting frustrated with not having the equipment or materials needed to present God with the best that we have to offer?

Often church musicians are forced to play on BAD or inadequate equipment, Sunday School teachers don’t have the supplies readily available to do what they need to do, etc… When we as leaders refuse to invest into ministries (with time and money) it communicates that the ministry isn’t taken seriously, and tells those volunteers that their gift or service isn’t taken seriously.

Here are my three take aways from this point:

  1. You are only as strong as your weakest link. It is the little things that get you. (Example: what is the point of nice speakers if you have the cheapest cable carrying the signal to them.)
  2. Maintenance is important. Be proactive instead of reactive… it will save your hind end and cut down on frustrations across the board of stuff breaking down when it is needed.
  3. When you invest in a ministry it enables and frees up the leaders to do their job to the best of their ability.
  • Encourage quality.

Frustrations quickly build in an area where quality isn’t encouraged or enforced. Like a basketball team a ministry team is only as good as the weakest link.

I am an avid University of Kentucky fan… every year I suffer through football and anticipate the coming of basketball season. It blows me away how good the players on the Wildcats basketball team are every year… but no matter how good they are in college the jump in ability and quality when they go to the NBA and begin practicing with the pros is very apparent. Our teams are like that. We become the average of the group we serve with most. If they are great it will elevate and encourage us to rise to that.

As leaders we must encourage quality and demonstrate excellence.

  • Be a leader that people want to follow.

In the bestselling book “Leadership and Self-Deception” by the Arbinger Instituate it says,

The leaders people choose to follow are the leaders who are out of the box. (154)

I think this idea is key… especially in a Gospel oriented and primarily volunteer environment. We have to be a passionate leader that people want to follow. We can’t be afraid to try things and to get “involved.”

The book also has this to say about our personality and charisma as leaders. It says,

We can always sense when we are being coped with, manipulated, or outsmarted.  We can always detect the hypocrisy.  We can always feel the blame concealed beneath veneers of niceness.  And we typically resent it. (27)


People respond not primarily to what you do but to how you’re being… toward them. (43)

In order to be a good leader we have to be the type of person people want to follow. We don’t have governmental authority, we aren’t a ruler or a dictator, and we don’t have prosecuting power to make people follow us… so we have to lead in a way that makes people want to follow.

  • Create a culture focused on people.

We have all heard it said that, “ministry would be easy if it weren’t for the people.” I have been guilty of it myself. This to me is a prime example of self-deception. This statement communicates that as ministers we feel that we have to put up with people, this causes us see them as objects or problems rather than as valuable people.

Our goal needs to be to develop a culture where people are simply invited to see others as people, vs. objects or problems.

In “Leadership and Self- Deception” it says this,

If I’m not interested in knowing a person’s name, I’m probably not really interested in the person as a person. (41)

We are “ministers” not business people. We are not using people to accomplish an end goal or task… but rather investing in them as people. Who cares how many volunteers we have every Sunday if we are impacting and speaking into their lives on a personal level.

I pray for Jesus’ eyes in this area of my life. I desire to see people the way He sees people. As beautifully and wonderfully made. A creation of His own liking with value and worth.

Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive… but rather a starting point.

To all you leaders out there…

  • Thank you for serving the people of God week in and week out.
  • Thank you for the hours invested in making sure that the Gospel gets out.
  • Thank you for caring about the local church – loving what God loves and prioritizing His priorities.
  • Thank you for serving even when you don’t feel appreciated.
  • Thank you for graciously receiving more complaints than compliments.
  • Thank you for pointing people to Jesus and facilitating an environment where life change is happening.

You are making a difference! While others may not notice or see all that you do, God knows. You have His attention and that is all the attention or appreciation that you need. Don’t give up. Don’t allow frustration to overwhelm you. The work we are doing is important. The work we are doing is necessary. Let’s commit ourselves to leading well.

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