Roy and Josh were stuck. They were at loggerheads. Months of chronic low-grade conflict had worn them down. Their best efforts to deal with “the problem” as mature, spiritual men had proven futile.
Now the challenge was how to move forward. Settle for an uneasy truce, constant vigilance, and the likelihood of further scrapes? Should one or both begin looking for another position at another church? Seek outside help?
Fortunately, they settled on the last option – seeking outside help. They attended a week’s training on personal and professional development (specifically for pastors). Then they engaged mentors who administered The Birkman Method™ profile and compared the results.
Much to their surprise, the conflict between Roy and Josh was settled quickly and easily. The issue between them boiled down to differences in the ways they processed ideas and distributed assignments.
Differences in thinking and leading
Roy, the Lead Pastor, is a “big idea” guy. A quick glance at his Birkman profile reveals his passion for ideas. Spend a few minutes with him and you’ll quickly discover that he loves to talk ideas. His verbal agility is on full display when he weighs the pros and cons of a decision. On important subjects he does a deep dive into details. Eventually he comes to a conclusion, at least in his own mind. From his perspective, voicing this conclusion serves as direction to his staff. Roy thinks he’s provided leadership.
The trouble is, most people to pick up on Roy’s train of thought. Nor do they understand that when he wraps it up, he thinks he’s giving direction or stating his opinion. Roy’s communication and leadership styles could not be more indirect. He’s great at working with ideas but exceptionally weak at moving from thought to giving direction.
Josh, an Associate Pastor, is wired differently than Roy. He is a direct communicator who thrives on persuasion. His Birkman profile indicates a bias toward action but little interest in the sorts of deep, complex discussions that thrill his boss, Roy.
Josh needs a busy environment and a demanding schedule to function at his highest level. Roy, on the other hand, needs quiet reflection to determine the most effective use of people’s time and energies. When these competing sets of needs come into contact, both of them will encounter stress.
Different ways of dealing with stress
Stress really reveals the deep differences between Roy and Josh.
Roy stalls, putting off necessary actions, particularly if they feel tedious. Josh, by contrast, engages in busywork. He sees his boss as lacking in forcefulness, lacking energy, and as easily discouraged. Roy, under stress, is prone to see Josh as impulsive, restless, and impatient.
The simple solution
Based on these insights, their mentor developed a simple solution. It began with a discussion of the different ways each man processed ideas and provided verbal leadership. They were able to identify ways that these differences led to past misunderstandings and contributed to the current discomfort.
- Roy saw that Josh’s impatience stems from his high energy level and need for lots of activity. Because of his high energy level, Josh was often impatient with conversation, particularly when he was stressed. The key insight for Roy is that Josh is action oriented, not idea oriented.
- Josh realized that he needs to give Roy time to absorb new ideas. He must be patient if Roy doesn’t jump on the bandwagon immediately. Josh also learned that he must manage his tendency to become impatient.
With this new insight, they were ready for a set of relationship guidelines. By referring to them regularly, they would find themselves working together more effectively and with greatly reduced stress.
- Roy was to give Josh plenty to do. He would motivate him by giving a busy schedule.
- Josh would let Roy to determine schedules whenever practical. He would learn to be comfortable with Roy’s a more relaxed schedule. This arrangement made the and best use of both of them.
Wherever two or more are gathered to do ministry there will be conflict. When people act in good faith and walk in the Spirit, conflict is usually a matter of different ways of processing thought, providing verbal leadership, and varying degrees of physical, mental, and social energy.
If you find yourself stuck in a conflicted relationship, there’s a great chance that things can be ironed out if each person understands their own needs more deeply, if they listen carefully to the other, and develop a plan that will help be a source of support and encouragement to one another.
We’re several years down the road from our consultation with Roy and Josh. Today the ministry is thriving, each man finds ministry deeply rewarding, and each has grown significantly as pastors and as Christian men.