I think we all have a bit of King Saul in us when we work in a group.
Though we may never admit it, we all have insecurities and at some point or another, we’ve all worried that someone might just be a bit better than us.
But it’s how we deal with those fears and insecurities. And, well, Saul didn’t do so well.
He was angry that the people of his kingdom were saying “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands.” I’m sure it bothered Saul even more because of all the wars and battles he fought for them.
Even the best of us, at times, feel a bit of… a sting, I guess, when church members gush over another staff. It’s a normal, human reaction to get a bit angry when someone says “I wish she’d lead our Bible Study all the time” when you’ve been preparing months and months for that particular Bible Study.
It does hurt a bit when your youth kids connect so much more with someone else than you, the youth pastor.
But it’s at this point that we should really evaluate ourselves and name what we feel and work on it. In the end, it’s not about them liking us or them prefering us over any other staff member or volunteer, it’s about God and how we get people closer to God, and not about who gets people closer to God. Because then, it becomes about me and not God.
If we don’t deal with this, if we don’t name it, recognize it, own it and work on it, it only gets worse and more dangerous.
There’s a point in Saul and David’s story where Saul wants David to marry one of his daughters. The first attempt didn’t work. But Saul had another daughter, Michal, who was in love with David. And this is Saul’s exact thoughts: “Let me give her to him that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of Philistines may be against him.” So Saul gets his servant to tell David, all David needs to do is bring the King one hundred Philistines’ foreskin (can I add: ew?). And Saul’s reason? “Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of Philistines.” Bad news for Saul, David succeeded, making Saul further paranoid and afraid of David.
I’ve seen (and heard) this happen a couple of this time in ministry, where we intervene.
Someone’s getting too popular and too liked, and we, as the ‘main leader’, are not happy about it. So we do something about it.
If the person has preaching duties, maybe we lighten their preaching load or not have them preach at all.
Or, to fit more of the Saul analogy, the well-liked person has a fear of public speaking. So we ask them to preach, not to have them confront their fear, but hoping that the people (youth) see that this person isn’t so great after all. And what usually happens? Everyone loved that person’s sermon and wants you to give them more opportunities to speak.
Or, you’re a youth pastor. You are “worried” that this part-time staff is doing really well. But something about her doesn’t feel right, and you can’t put your finger on it. No one’s this good. No one’s this ‘perfect.’ It just doesn’t make sense. She’s doing really well, but at what cost? She’s not being truthful. She’s hiding something, and you need to protect your youth when the other shoe falls. But you can’t just get rid of her. Too many people like her and are blinded by her charisma. You’re the only logical one here. You need to protect the youth. And you’re afraid to bring this concern up with anybody on the staff because they can’t see it, and they’ll think you’re being irrational, jealous even. What to do?
Then you remember that a meeting with the church leaders are coming up. Budget is real tight when it comes to youth ministry. And last time you complained that the youth budget was too small, they nearly skinned you and ate you alive in that meeting. That meeting wasn’t very Christian at all. In fact, none of these meetings are very pleasant. And when money is being discussed? Forget about it.
She’s never experienced a meeting with church leaders. And since she’s now part-time staff, it’s important for her to know what goes on behind the church doors. It’s for her good. She’ll be educated on how this church works and prepare her for future churches.
So you ask her to come to the meeting to be part of the church leadership. But you have a favor to ask:
“Look. You’re doing really well and I think everyone truly loves you, both the adults and the youth. I’m sure that you’ve noticed how limited we are in our budget. And you know that we can’t do nearly the good things that we want to do with our budget. I want you to go in there and ask for an increase of our budget, particularly so that we can have enough funds to do a youth retreat. This will be a good experience for you. And, these people are nice and since they love you so much, you might just be able to win them over.”
Two possible scenarios can happen. 1) She loses faith in this church, the way these church leaders are so contentious and hateful or 2) they approve her budget proposal.
Things can get really ugly, can it?
The worse part of the Michal story for me?
That Saul was so blinded by his jealousy for David, he was willing to use his daughter as a pawn, without second thought. When he saw that Michal was in love with David, the first thing Saul thought was: “This is my opportunity to set David up!”
The sad thing about jealousy in team ministry is that we (unknowingly) end up using our kids (parishioners) as pawns. Sometimes we set up competing events where kids would have to choose which one to go to. We sometimes limit how much exposure the kids get of the other worker (the one they want more of) and over compensate with over exposure of you (the one they have a hard time connecting with).
In the end, this type of jealousy and competition hurts the church and leaves deep wounds in the kids. If they see that the youth staff can’t be the Body of Christ, how can we expect them to be?
It’s important for the sake of God’s ministry that we really avoid being like Saul when it comes to someone who may be better than us.
And simply, someone will always be better than us at something. We should celebrate that.