Years ago, I learned about a good pattern to follow when thinking about placing people in certain roles (whether paid or volunteer) inside of the church.
Bill Hybels taught me to look at 3 C’s:
Character, Competence, and Chemistry.
Another blog by Ron Edmondson added a fourth to the list: Culture.
With that in mind, there are moments when someone needs to be released from their role. It might have to do with any of those 4 C’s, but usually the most important one is Character.
Competence might be able to be taught, chemistry might be able to be worked on, and culture might get worked out, but character is entirely up to the individual.
I’ve noticed how, over the years, I’ve had conversations with people who believe someone should stay in their role, even when they have glaring character issues that are damaging themselves and others they influence through their role.
Let me make a side note: Different levels of character may be required by different roles. I require much more out of a person with a high level leadership role than I do out of someone who is just beginning. The problem I’m addressing is when the person’s character does not match the role they find themselves in.
I will hear things like, “We just need to work with that person” or “They’ll get better” or “Just give them time”. Now, there may be some very real issues with regards to character that CAN be worked on.
But, more often than not, the comments I hear basically mean this: “How can we be so judgmental and so lacking in grace?”
This could not be further from the truth. Grace is primarily used in the context of relationships, not just positions or roles that a person holds.
So often, we lack grace in the relational component with a person, while exercising grace in the positional component. This leads to high levels of frustration, as we keep a person in a position that is damaging them and others, while at the same time being continuously frustrated, angry, or bitter about what the person is doing.
I’m inviting you to reverse the equation.
What if we decided to have more grace with people in the context of relationships while holding positions a little more lightly?
If I have had to remove a person (or if they removed themselves) from a position due to character issues, my hope has always been that grace will continue in the context of the relationship. But, there’s two problems that frequently present themselves:
- A person’s personal feelings and identity is tied to the position. In that situation, the person doesn’t feel like relationship can continue because their relationships were completely tied to their position. When they lose the position, they feel like the relationship is lost as well.
- A person has no concern for change, so when they leave the position, they also leave the relationship. I have seen this over and over again. What usually happens is that the person makes a decision to leave the church, because they have no desire to make any real changes in their lives. They then go on to repeat the same pattern over again in another place.
Now, there is not much I or you can do about #2. But there is a whole lot we can do about #1. Here are a few suggestions.
- Make sure that the person you place in a certain role has the matching character for that role BEFORE entering into it.
- Continually provide opportunities for relationship building that are not directly related to a person’s position. Go out for coffee, have lunch, go bowling together…not to talk about their role, but to simply talk as people!
- Use words to continually affirm people according to WHO THEY ARE, not just WHAT THEY DO. So often we congratulate people on what their accomplishments are. That’s great! But we should also affirm the intrinsic value that everyone holds as God’s most incredible creation, regardless of what they do or don’t do.
Let’s make sure that in our leadership, we approach grace more as a relational concept than a positional concept. Positions can come and go, but life change only occurs in the context of relationships filled with grace.
Do you have any other ideas about how you can communicate grace more as relational concept in your church or organization?