Ministry Leaders: When Values Collide, Make the Right Choice

Values don’t have to collide, but when they do, leaders must decide and declare which value wins. For example, a ministry can value excellence and leadership development. But beneath the surface the values can be at odds with one another. A children’s teacher struggles to hand responsibility to another because “it won’t be excellent enough.” A groups pastor who talks often about development can struggle to hand the microphone to another because he wants “this meeting to be the best ever.”

Here are four common value collisions in ministry. Again, it is completely possible for both to exist at the same time, but when collision occurs, leaders must choose wisely.

1. If leadership development collides with excellence, choose development.

The longing for excellence can steal attention from leadership development as part of development is handing responsibilities to others and letting the work of ministry develop them. If the two values collide, development must win. Excellence must submit to leadership development. More than excellence in production, excellence in environments, or excellence in programming—ministries must be excellent in developing and deploying leaders. After all, we were commanded to make disciples, not commanded to make excellent programs or productions.

2. If generosity collides with policy, choose generosity.

Policies and generosity can coexist and should coexist. Policies are not unwise and don’t have to be bureaucratic. In fact, they should be liberating and timesaving so that the same questions and conversations are not continually resurfaced. There are moments when a policy in place was not written with a current situation in view, or maybe treating people on the team well and right falls outside of a policy. When generosity is at odds with a policy, choose generosity.

3. If ministry to your family collides with ministry, choose family.

If we believed that ministering in our contexts could not coexist with ministry to our families, we never would have agreed to the role. Ministry in your context should not only coexist with ministry to your family but should complement ministry to your family. But if in the rhythm of ministry, family and work collide, choose family.

4. If biblical collides with creative, choose biblical.

A ministry can be both biblical and innovative. A ministry leader can teach biblically and creatively. But if the two values collide, choose biblical. Ultimately, it is the Word that transforms the heart, not creativity or innovation.

I am not attempting to set up a false dichotomy. In each example, both values can exist simultaneously. But if leaders hold to one value without deep passion for the more important one, the more important can easily be lost. Ministry to one’s family can be neglected, biblical fidelity can be lost, leadership development can be minimized, and generosity can be stifled. When values collide, choose wisely.