We’ve all known someone who feels they’ve been placed on this planet to dominate others.
We see them in pre-school, telling other kids who can have what toy. Later, they end up as someone’s lab partner in high-school chemistry class, creating explosions.
As adults, they became that colleague who considers it their “divine right to rule” the team. Then, invariably, they end up on leadership boards, where their voice is always heard and heeded.
They also appear on most, if not all, church governing boards—because, like all of us, they don’t achieve full sanctification upon entry into the family of God.
These are the people who force their opinions and methodology on others—the ones others refer to as “pushy”, “bossy”, “control freaks”, in extreme cases “bullies”.
As pastors and church staff, we may not know exactly how or why these bullies got on the board, but once there, they’re very difficult to remove!
Like it or not, we have to deal with them.
So what do we do with these board-bullies who aren’t going away any time soon? Here are some default wrong go-to solutions we often try:
- Avoid them—when we see them approaching, we put our heads down and rush off to an “appointment” (even if we’re creating it as we go).
- Give in and do what they want to “keep peace”
- Pretend to do what they want, but “forget” to and/or hide what we’re really doing (there’s a term for this—“passive-aggressive”)
- Go along, do what they want, but grumble and complain about it the whole time. (Spouses are usually sounding-boards for this).
- Go along, but gossip about them and play the “martyr”— (often a go-to tool in church politics).
- Argue with them—whoever shouts loudest, and holds out longest, wins!
- Begin by trying to reason with them, but if that doesn’t work, do one of the above.
How well do you think these above “solutions” work? We can run, but only so far until they find us. We can “keep peace” for only so long until we and our church break into pieces. Avoiding, pretending, complaining, gossiping, and arguing certainly don’t contribute to cooperative relationships or thriving teamwork.
Let me suggest better ways—ways that work and keep working:
- Consider— Reason with them, be patient, seek to understand their need for having their way. Work it out with them– one of you will change your mind, but not due to force. This way, everyone feels better about the outcome, even if someone doesn’t get all they want. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phil. 2:4
- Co-operate— in the true sense of the word– operate together, as equal partners, to find and carry out the best solution. This is what Paul urged two strong-willed church women in Philippi to do (bossy church-leaders have been around since the beginning of humankind!): “ Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” Phil. 4:2
- Confront their bossiness if necessary– but not right in the midst of the disagreement– later, in a calm time, in love. “…we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ…” Eph. 4:15
The next time we encounter someone who has made it their mission to determine our actions, try these and “C” if they work! If not, keep trying—don’t give up—someday we’ll “C” healthy change in them, our relationships with them, and the church as a whole!