Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do With Well-Intentioned Dragons by Marshall Shelley
When I began reading this book I was concerned that it was a bunch of figures and not very helpful. As a pastor, I must say this book ended up being extremely helpful. I think I highlighted most of the book, which is a good thing to look back and quickly find what jumped out at me. This book is well written, and has quite a number of practical examples for pastors as well as case studies that one can easily relate to. I really ended up enjoying this book and reading quite a lot of it to my husband. In it we found very practical advice for building an atmosphere of cooperation, boundary setting and how to confront people. The last chapter is amazing dealing with when there is no resolution, because sometimes there is just no resolution possible. I appreciated the authors heart and vulnerability of those who shared their stories in this book. I think this is a must read for every one in leadership.; the insights and encouragement in this book are invaluable for anyone pastoring, with or without dragons. ..
This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are entirely my own
Don't let the title mislead you. This is not a book on how to deal with problem people in your church. Marshall Shelley, the vice president of Christianity Today International, takes the more biblical approach and shares instead how to minister to problem people. This revised book from the 1994 originally titled, Well-Intentioned Dragons was a great resource and relatable for any pastor or church leader. The "dragons" or "problem people" are based off Shelley's observations and research conducted by Christianity Today that about 80% of pastors have to engage problem people within their church family regularly. This book contains stories of leaders and pastors who have succeeded and failed to minister to such individuals and some of these stories hit close to home.
Sometimes enlarging the frame of reference helps remind us that one mouth isn't the whole church, one critic isn't the end of our ministry, and even one church isn't the whole body of Christ."
Shelley begins this book by offering somewhat humorous stories about problem people who were sent into motion over some pretty ridiculous things. He gives several titles to associate with expected behaviors among these problem people as well.
"The Wet Blanket" neutralizes the enthusiasm for any good initiative.
"The Drill Instructor" orders people around like he or she are the commander-in-chief.
"The Anonymous Blogger" makes every attempt to air other's dirty laundry to the public without disclosing who that person might be.
You get the idea and no doubt have already attached names to those descriptions just by reading them. The truth is, he's right. Shelley brings up not just the problem people and they're more than predictable behaviors, he also walks the reader through how they develop into this person over time. He gives weight to these interactions by providing some practical ways to handle these well-meaning people.
Pastor or be a lay leader in any church and you'll have you own entourage of these problem people, but as Shelley states, that's the point. If no one is ever questioning your decisions, your actions or your own questions then how do you know you're on the right track? What happens when the "dragons" are right about you? You cannot pastor alone and you cannot grow into the pastor you're called to be alone. Sometimes the only way to refine your growth is to be refined by those rough people.
The goal in handling dragons is not to destroy them, not merely to disassociate from them, but to make them disciples even when that seems an unlikely prospect."
At the end of the day we're called to love everyone, including these "dragons" or "problem people". This book will better equip you to minister to those who need it, even when they rub you the wrong way.
I found this book overall to be very encouraging. Especially the concept of overlooking the problems to minister to that individual regardless if they are out of line or convicting. Shelley did a good job of balancing the ridiculous with the call of God to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. Thank goodness the Lord's love extends past our actions when we act like the sinners we truly are.
My only critique of the book was the fact that it seemed like there were times where the white flag was raised too early and occasionally the option of just leaving the church and your people was handed out without much of a fight. That said, if you are a pastor, this book is sure to be a good addition to your book collection and a source or encouragement and helpful reminder down the road.
This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Bethany House Publishers.
I've been in church all my life. I've been on church boards and been a ministry leader. And yes, I've experienced those problem people in the church. Dare I say I might have even been one? (I hope not!)
You know those people. On the outside they look just like everyone else in the congregation. They are charming and friendly. They see themselves as godly people. They feel strongly and they honestly believe they are right. But they are dragons, albeit well intentioned dragons. They leave hurt and strained relationships in their wake. They end up doing more harm than good.
Sometimes they are involved in a play for power. Sometimes the delight in pointing out problems, assuring others they are more spiritual. Sometimes they are a wet blanket, seeing the negative in everything. Maybe they post an anonymous complaint on the church's website. Maybe they are lavish givers but demand to control the use of those funds.
If you are a church pastor - what do you do? Shelley helps you identify and understand dragons. He has suggestions on how to deal with them (even when they may be right). The goal is to make disciples of them not destroy them. It's important to have this essential attitude: "When attacked by a dragon, do not become one." (72)
He has included lots of stories. It is almost depressing, reading about how some pastors have been mistreated. But the stories give validity to the fact that the dragons exist and can be dealt with.
Pastors, read this book. It will help you to know that you are not alone. Probably every pastor has encountered dragons. If you want to sharpen your dragon taming skills and dragon proof your church, read this book.
Even if you are not a pastor, you would benefit from reading this book. I truly hope you don't see yourself in this book (as a dragon). If you do, you'll get an idea of the harm you might be causing.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Beginning with an all too familiar case study - not one that has been told before, but one that has been heard all too frequently, the author begins to explore the the people and attitudes that can and do disrupt the pastor's ministry and life. The author continues by exploring some of the what drives or agitates these people who seek to manipulate and hurt the church. These include the technological tools that are available to both the church and the world, and the psychological ills that are so common in 21st century society. Finally, Shelly explorers ways for the pastor and church leadership to respond to the rumors and innuendos that others may throw at their ministry and/or family.
The material was interesting and did address real problems and issues in the local church. The book would serve as a great text for the pre-pastoral student (whether in seminary, Bible College, or as part of a CPE Unit). It would also be useful for those counseling or coaching those in active ministry. Some in active ministry may find the book to be inviting trouble. For example, I found myself asking, "Who do I know like that in my church?" In some way, I felt, as a pastor in ministry, that the book was problem oriented rather than solution oriented. With the cautions mentioned here, I would recommend the book for the active duty pastor.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.
Marshall Shelley has written an amazing book "Ministering to Problem People in Your Church". In his book, Mr. Shelley helps us visualize problem people, that is well meaning Christians, as "dragons". We can either slay the dragon, or we can work to deescalate our situations. The most obvious is to deescalate.
Mr. Shelley has given the reader true life situations that can and will happen in any church, and shown how pastors have handled each one.
This is a book that all pastors, leaders, deacons and elders need to read! Well intentioned Christians can be dragons in any church, and in this book they are characterized, recognized and shown how to work with these people.
I highly recommend this book, it was an easy, informative, quick read, which will remain on my book shelf for future reference.
I received this book free from the publisher . I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."