Control Creates Crisis
Jessica Bealer has been leading children's ministry for almost 20 years. The last five years have been spent overseeing standards, systems, staffing and atmosphere for the children's ministry of Elevation Church. She has overseen the launch of nearly twenty locations, and is considered a specialist in KidMin multi-site. Jessica is a mother of four, published author, and host of the Women's Leadership Workshop podcast. She is married to Frank, the CEO of Phase Family Centers and Executive Director of Leadership Development at Orange.
“You know what…We’re done. We’re just…done. I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before in my life. But you just walk right in here and tell me how to do my job, AND you insult my daughter. If you think you can do it better, then have at it. I’m leaving. Hope you enjoy the chaos.”
My first year of ministry at Elevation Church was spent as the Rock Hill eKidz Director. I had the opportunity to launch the campus, recruit volunteers and develop teams and systems to help us minister to families in my community. It was an exciting time. I loved my position and the teams I led. However, most of our campuses were experiencing significant overflow, and it seemed the best solution was to expand. So with two new locations on the launch schedule, I was asked to move into the role of Children’s Director. I would oversee systems, standards, staffing, atmosphere and volunteer training. I had only been in the position of Children’s Director for a few weeks when I decided to take a trip to a new location that had only been launched for a couple of months.
My goal for the visit was to encourage the volunteers, evaluate the systems and atmosphere and help the campus kids director find ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting many issues. The Kid’s Director was phenomenal. She was a visionary with a sweet spirit and a penchant for organization.
I remember thinking on the car ride there how easy this first campus evaluation would be. Looking back, it was probably that overconfidence that set me up for such an epic fail.
When I arrived, I was met with a warm welcome. The check-in team was all smiles. The volunteers obviously loved what they did. The preschool environments were beautiful and the elementary age small groups had employed several creative ideas to make small groups more engaging. I was impressed, to say the least.
My last stop was Clubhouse. Clubhouse is the environment reserved for volunteer and staff kids. We were committed to families; especially those that helped us execute our ministry week after week. Clubhouse was an area in which staff and volunteers’ kids could go if they would be onsite for more than one service. It was a relaxed environment with movies, video games, toys, crafts, board games and of course…snacks.
Because the campus was non-permanent, this particular Clubhouse ran out of a large school gymnasium. As soon as I walked in, my ears fell under assault. Kids were definitely having fun. In fact, they seemed to be having a blast, at least that’s what the shrieks of excitement told me. There was a somewhat confusing mesh of kickball slash dodge ball being played out at the center of the room. Toys were strewn across the gymnasium floor, adding a new layer of peril to the unusual sport. A movie was playing on a big screen that up until this point had somehow survived the onslaught of playground balls. To make matters worse, there were crumbs and snack time remnants everywhere. It was a debacle. I began to look around frantically for the adult in charge. The only person I saw of age to assist was a teenage girl sitting on the bleachers staring at her smart phone.
Looking back…I could have handled the situation a hundred different ways…and all of them would have been better than what I did in that moment. I turned on my “mom voice,” shut down the strange kickball/dodge ball game, and began to pick up the toys. I instructed the teenage girl to kindly get off her phone and help me reign in the crazy and then I put every kid in time out…indefinitely.
When the gym door swung open and the volunteer who was clearly supposed to be in charge walked in with a line of kids behind her I let out a frustrated huff and began to instruct her on an appropriate and “safe” Clubhouse environment. I only had got about ten seconds into my lecture before I was cut off.
“You know what…We’re done. We’re just…done. I don’t know you. You’re not my boss. I’ve never seen you before in my life. But you just walk right in here and tell me how to do my job, AND you insult my daughter. If you think you can do it better, then have at it. I’m leaving. Hope you enjoy the chaos.”
Technically…I wasn’t her boss. I was her boss’s boss, but the fact remains that I was a stranger to her. She had never seen me before. She didn’t understand my passion for excellence or the fact that one of my highest priorities was the care and development of staff and volunteer kids. She didn’t know my heart…and I didn’t know hers.
What made matters worse was that in my attempt to “clean things up.” I had undermined the authority of the campus kids director. Not only was she down two volunteers, which was the immediate problem, but I had unintentionally shamed her efforts.
I remember hanging my head on my way to the car. How had I screwed it up so badly? My intentions were pure. I had just wanted to help, but my need for control had reared its ugly head and I had jumped straight into “fix it” mode. And if I’m being honest…that’s just a nice way to say I turned into a control freak…and I made a mess of the situation.
Ever been there?
Let it be a comfort to you; Christians have been trying to wield control since Biblical times. Not much has changed with this.
Simon Peter was one of the first followers of Jesus Christ. He was the outspoken disciple, one of Jesus’ closest friends, an apostle and “pillar” of the early church.
Peter was also enthusiastic, strong-willed, impulsive, and at times, brash. And for all his strengths, Peter made many mistakes. One of those mistakes came during the final days before Jesus’ crucifixion.
In Luke’s account of the Last Supper in Chapter 22, we see Peter react and try to take control of a situation in which God was already at work. Jesus was about to be betrayed by Judas and seemingly without thought, Peter reacts.
47 While he (Jesus) was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them (Peter) struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:47-51
In Matthew’s account of the incident in Chapter 26, scripture reads
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
God had a plan. From the opening manger scene in Bethlehem, to a hill called Golgotha just outside the walls of Jerusalem, our Heavenly Father was absolutely aware of each miracle and every teaching that Jesus would share in his 33 years on Earth. And he knew that Judas’ betrayal would set the stage for the greatest sacrifice the human race had ever seen. Jesus’ destiny was thought of and designed before Abraham, before Noah, before Adam and Eve. This was always God’s intention.
And Peter…almost screwed it up. Okay, not really, I mean I refuse to believe that a fisherman with a sword could have thwarted the gift of salvation for generations to come, but you understand my point. This was the master plan from the creator of heaven and earth and Peter’s aggression was reckless and without forethought.
This type of behavior was typical for Peter. Still, the Lord who chose him continued to mold him into exactly who He intended Peter to be. Jesus himself reaffirmed Peter, calling him “this rock on which I will build my church” and promising him the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
It’s reassuring really. Peter was loved by Jesus and used to accomplish great things in His name, but he was also human and struggled with many of the same issues we face daily. If the Savior not only offered Peter redemption, but also commissioned him to establish the early church, then surely he can use you and me.
So here’s your challenge: Stop cutting off ears. We all have a metaphorical sword. It’s called our tongue. When things feel as if they’re spinning out of control, when everything within you is screaming to step in and step up to the challenge, breathe. Before you react, prior to lashing out, preceding your missteps. Just breath. And look to Jesus.
Do you think Peter would have cut off the servant’s ear if he had taken a breath and put his eyes on the Son of God? I don’t. I think the passionate man that Jesus called to His ministry would have read the situation for what it was, a bittersweet necessity.
As a leader, you’ve been gifted with many valuable skills. Maybe you’re an incredible visionary that can motivate people to move. Maybe you’re a strategic thinker who creates systems that streamline processes and increase efficiency. Or maybe you’re relational with the gift to connect with people on a deeper level and call out hidden potential. All of these things qualify you to “take control.” And your natural inclination may lead you to wield the power you have force change. But control often creates crisis. Just because you can insert yourself into a situation, doesn’t mean you should. Discernment is a skill developed over time by navigating difficult seasons and experiences. It is rarely granted spontaneously. Many times, the answer to the problem you face is a good night’s rest followed by a collaborative brainstorming session.
When I think back to that first campus visit, I often wonder what would have happened if I had just stopped talking. What could I have accomplished if I would have taken a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and saw the situation through the eyes of God? Would I have offered assistance? Showed appreciation? Maybe I could have connected with the volunteer and her daughter and offered encouragement…I am certain with just a few more moments of consideration, the outcome would have been drastically different.
The best leaders bring their team alongside them every step of the way. They teach them how to think and they lead them through change without creating crisis.
Growing up in church, I learned that the answer to most questions asked during Sunday School was, “pray and read the Bible.”
As an adult I realize it’s not a coincidence that the answers I seek are most often revealed when I spend time in the presence of God.
The next time you’re faced with a frustrating situation, and you switch into “fix it” mode. I want to encourage you to stop, breath, and fix your eyes on Jesus.