They’re the Most Frustrated Church Members

They’re the most frustrated people in the church. Well, that’s been my experience.

They’re typically highly engaged and gregarious. They have obvious spiritual gifts and understand the local church. So why are they frustrated?

Perhaps because they don’t have a ministerial title.

And what’s odd, they really don’t want one. But, they believe God wants them to have one.

In my years of ministry, I’ve had multiple conversations with passionate people about how the church can be made better – and often, they’ll share how I or other staff members could better lead it. Many times, these conversations have helped me understand why they seem to have such high expectations of me, or you.

They’re placing their unmet expectations of themselves, on us.

It’s like the dad who didn’t make the high-school soccer team when they were young (I may or may not have personal experience with this), and now makes his child work really hard on soccer skills. It’s the internal hope that their unfulfilled personal expectation can be met through someone else. (I believe psychology would call this transference.)

In more personal conversations with these high caliber leaders, I’ve learned that at some point in their life they felt a call from God to “vocational ministry”. And some of them even answered that call, but for some reason or another are no longer involved in pursuing it. In many of those situations, they’re not doing as God asked, and know they’re living outside of God’s will. And like all of us who continue to live outside of what we feel is God’s will for us, those who have ignored God’s call to vocational ministry live in continued tension.

That tension causes issues for others, too. Within church settings, that person may try to transpose their calling, gifts, and leadership abilities onto you, or another established ministry leader.

I don’t think their comparisons or transference are done with ill intent. Rather, they feel gifted to do the ministry work you’re doing, and when they see it not happening the way they would do it, conflict begins.

Have you experienced this? Are you someone who is called to vocational ministry, but aren’t answering that call? Are you living in tension with how you see ministry being done at your church and how you feel called to do it?

How to serve the person when you encounter this:

  • Get to know them and their story.
  • Ask them the hard questions of why they’re not pursuing vocational ministry.

(Many times, they’re not willfully being disobedient to God. Usually there is an external factor contributing to their choice [e.g. they got burned by their first church, their spouse isn’t supportive, they couldn’t make enough money to support their family, etc.]. Don’t assume they worst.)

  • As you feel you can exercise spiritual authority with them, remind them they won’t feel content in life until they deal with God’s calling on their life and accept it.

How to redirect their tension and get them on a pathway toward their calling:

As church leaders, we’re not responsible for a person’s obedience to God’s call in their life. But we’re responsible for discipling and fully stewarding a person’s abilities.

Show them a glimpse of their gifts and abilities in obedience. Give them opportunities to use their God-given DNA in your ministry. Many times, seeing the fruit of God’s work through them will change their attitudes, if not change the direction of their life.

  • Trust them with a leadership positon where they work closely with you
  • Consider a ministry internship for them
  • Help them pursue their seminary degree

Many times, they haven’t pursued God’s calling because no one has ever championed them. If you believe God’s equipped and called them, figure out how to support them, and my guess is, they’ll support you too.


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