In Judson Edward’s book, The Leadership Labyrinth, he describes 21 paradoxes in ministry. He defines the ‘relationship paradox’ in this way: the people who like you the most will be the ones you try least to please. He then writes that these three kinds of people fill every church.
- The energizers: their very presence makes us feel better, buoys our spirits, and fills our tank.
- The regular folks: they may not buoy our spirits, but they don’t demoralize us either. They make up the largest group in a church.
- The drainers: they sap our joy and can ruin our day.
The main difference between the energizers and the drainers are their expectations of us. The energizers don’t place great expectations on us. The drainers do.
We don’t measure up to the drainers expectations. Either our preaching or counseling or leading or availability is not enough. These subtle unmet expectations may not be overt, but when we are around these people, we feel their unspoken disapproval.
Edwards pens these profound words.
“When our credo becomes ‘I am as you desire me,’ we have lost the very thing that will enable us to minister effectively: our authenticity.”
Edwards rounds out his chapter with three insights into how Jesus responded to his drainers.
- First, Jesus retreated from this drainers to refresh himself and seek God. He regularly sought renewal.
- Second, Jesus balanced his drainers with his energizers.
- Third, Jesus didn’t allow the drainers to deter him from his plan and purpose.
Although Jesus practiced a rhythm of renewal and time away from his drainers, he never got rid of them. He still had to contend with them, just as we pastors must do in our churches.
Not everyone liked Jesus. Not everyone will like us. But God’s grace gives us what we need to serve even the most draining drainers.
What other categories of church people would you add to this list?
If this post resonates with you, you may enjoy my third book that released last year: People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership. It was one of this year’s Outreach Resource of the Year Recommendation in leadership.