Last week we looked at the warning sign of an independent attitude. The next step to disloyalty is what I call passivity. Essentially someone goes dormant in an organization. That is a clear warning sign that they are offended and heading towards betrayal. Disloyalty and offense is not the only reason someone goes passive, but it is a major reason so watch out when it happens.
What does it mean to go passive?
It means to stop building with you. A deacon will resign. A trustee will step down. An elder will shut down their Living Church. A Sunday school leader will quit. An assistant pastor will still do his paid job but will be effectively working union rules, dropping any task that they are not explicitly paid for.
Now there are many reasons why someone will go passive. A new baby, a promotion at work, marital difficulties, depression. But when it comes out of disloyalty, out of offense it will happen suddenly… as the leader you may be the last to know. It will probably not happen face to face but via email or even text. This sudden step down is a big clue something is wrong.
People who serve a church either serve as Mary’s or as Martha’s. Mary people serve after sitting at his feet, find their identity in Christ and enjoy serving as God flows through them. They are working with God and are grateful to you for providing them a place to release their love and God given talents. You could take all responsibility from Mary, stand them down from any position and they would be happy and still be there on Sunday. Why? Because their identity is in Christ not their role. Change the role and they will be happy because Christ is still the same.
Martha people on the other hand serve out of pressure, out of insecurity and out of fear. They, like Martha in the bible, will miss the sermon to serve, not relax when serving, and always judge others for not serving like them. These people find their identity in their service not in Christ. Take that serving from them, our should they find themselves in a position where the task is too difficult, too mundane, too lowly for them they will lash out at others. They will put others down, try and sabotage others and point out their flaws… often their job is undone whilst they are doing someone else’s task because that helps their self image better. Eventually the cycle of Martha is too painful and the person throws their hands up and quits.
This is a major problem if this happens. Remember Martha’s identity is in serving. Now she isn’t serving anymore she needs to assure herself in her identity and to do that she pulls down everyone in leadership and everyone serving. Passivity quickly leads to critical attitudes. Stopping building nearly always leads to starting to tear down.
What to do with someone in the passive zone?
1. Hit it head on. Ask them why they are standing down, what they are doing instead, and whether they plan on resuming duties at some point. Their answers will help you know what is going on. I don’t recommend asking someone outright whether they are offended, it’s a rare person who can admit it!
2. A notice period. Even volunteers should be expected to do a short notice period. Why? Because they take time to replace. But in terms of seeing whether someone is offended, whether they work a notice period is a massive key as to whether they are offended. Offended people down tools and go. People who are being led forward to another ministry by God will make sure there is a clear handover of tools.
3. Don’t make it easy for them to turn critical. Ensure people know they are not in that position any more. Ensure you get your keys back. Change all the passwords. Don’t let them stand there and watch where they used to serve. (Side note… This is why retired pastors should leave their church)
4. Help them see their identity is in Christ. We have to be careful as pastors and leaders when we see people who overserve. It is so lovely to have the task done we forget our overlook we are hurting a person. Ensure the person is in the service, ensure people around them are helping them see their worth. See if they will do a Freedom in Christ course.
5. Don’t be hasty to give them the task again. This sort of cooling down takes time.