Today we are talking to Rev. Dr. Velecia James of Atlanta, Georgia. Rev. Dr. James has been pastor of four churches and is well qualified to talk about the dynamics of congregation relationships for women in ministry.
Last year I heard you speak at a Women In Ministry conference on How To Get Along With Church Folk. Why is it necessary to talk about this topic?
Women engaged in any type of ministry might as well face the fact that some people are not going to like you. Nurturing is in our DNA. We freely give of ourselves and expect that love to be reciprocated. All through the week we deal with all types of people on our jobs, in our communities, at the grocery store, visiting with our friends, and dealing with our families. And when we get to church we just want to relax and bask in the love of our fellow parishioners.
At church we expect a loving atmosphere to reign and all negativity to evaporate. But that is not the case. The same people you deal with through the week are the same people in church on Sunday morning. They did not magically transform overnight. They bring their imperfections to church and we are all expected to get along.
But how do you get along with people in your congregation who clearly don’t like you?
Lead with love. Always lead with love. Love opens the door to healing. Keep in mind what the Father said when asked what was the greatest commandment. He said the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart. And the second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Love is the key to getting along with people.
What other advice do you have?
Be confident in who you are. First and foremost, you have to like yourself. Be sure of your calling. If you are confident in what you are called to do, others will not distract you with their attitudes.
If you know what you are called to do, you will seek God first in every situation and not seek the approval of others first. We carry unnecessary burdens. So don’t let it bother you that people don’t like you.
There are people in your congregation who may not speak to you. They come to church on Sunday. They don’t cause problems. They enjoy the service and leave. These may be some of your biggest supporters. But you will never know it because you haven’t taken the time to get to know them and engage them in conversation. Instead you are focused on the troublemakers.
It’s the ones who are in your face every Sunday who will stab you in the back. Yet, you count them as your true supporters and friends. And you are shocked and hurt when they turn on you.
Navigating church relationships can be difficult. It takes a confident person to discern the inner motives of people.
You have given us a lot to think about. Any final thoughts?
Treat everyone alike. And if they won’t let you and try to tear down everything you are trying to do, love them anyway.
Sometimes that is hard to do.
Of course, it is hard. The life of a woman in ministry is not easy. Whether you are senior pastor, assistant pastor, head of a ministry, or even a volunteer in a ministry, dealing with people is not easy.
Remember, most people in church are there for the right reason. They want a better relationship with God and with their fellow man. The people who give you a hard time could be suffering from loneliness, heartache, illness, or anything that is not clearly visible. The only way you will be able to break through the shell they have built around themselves is that you take time, really take time, to get to know them.
Thank you Rev. Dr. James for your insight into this topic.
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