Saturday, January 4

Ministering to Problem People in Your Church by Marshall Shelley

Every organization seems to have at least one or two people who mean well but still manage to cause emotional strains. These people do not usually intend to cause problems, but sometimes they can derail the organization and cause stress for those in leadership positions. In this book (an updated version of the formerly released Well-Intentioned Dragons), Marshall Shelley reaches out to Pastors who may be dealing with these sorts of people. Shelley likes to refer to these people as well-intentioned dragons.

Though I am not a pastor, I was intrigued by the idea of this book. I’ve spoken with people and have read books and blogs by those who have been hurt by their time in the church. Sometimes the hurt comes from the church’s teaching or leadership styles. However, I have heard more and more people talk about they were hurt by others who attended the church, by ‘well-intentioned dragons’ who didn’t realize that their actions and words caused deep wounds. Dealing with ‘dragons’ is not easy. Often our default response to conflict is to avoid it, especially within the church.

Instead of ignoring the problem, Shelley hopes to show pastor’s techniques they can use. Woven into the book are stories about other pastors (important details being changed to protect privacy). We can see what problems began to arise in the church and how the pastor dealt with it. In some cases there is reconciliation and both the pastor the dragon come to an understanding. There are also stories where relationships fracture and either the pastor or the dragon ends up leaving the church.

I appreciate how Shelley handled the stories. When writing about people who can cause dissent and problems, it can be easy to demonize them and attack them. Instead, Shelley tries to show why the dissent began as well as showing what the pastors did right or wrong. Indeed, some of the pastors only realized afterward that their response only contributed to the problem.  The book gives suggestions to pastors on how to approach people, how to handle criticism, and how to come to understand the dragon’s point of view.

After finishing the book, I could see why it was ripe for reprinting.  A chapter titled ‘Electronic Warfare’ is brand new to the book but is an important section. It shows pastors ways to react to inflammatory or negative posts online or through email. He cautions pastors on being too reactionary with electronic communication, especially because it is too easy to misread context in emails or blog postings.

I believe this book can be an excellent resource for not only pastors, but for those in leadership positions at other Christian organizations. Many of the stories can not only be relevant but informative.  Shelley’s insights are strong and seem well grounded and I’m sure there are many conflicts which may be helped after a reading of this book.

4/5 stars
I received this book free from Bethany House Publisher.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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