Warning: being nice in ministry can be a problem

Are you too nice? Being "nice" has its place - it can smooth over awkward situations. Nice people are easier to be around, and other people like them. But nice won't take you through a whole career in ministry, and it won't help you help your church reach its potential.

Remember, "nice" is not a New Testament word. Jesus was compassionate, which is not the same as nice.

Here are three problems with being nice:

  1. You can find yourself working far more than is good for you or your family, not to reach your own goals, but to accommodate the needs and desires of others. You can say "yes" because you're too nice to say "no."

  2. You can avoid taking a stand with a difficult person that leads to bigger problems later. Whether it's a staff person or a lay leader, niceness can cause you to let too many things go, because it's easier. Too late, you realize that you have to take a much bigger stand for the sake of the church.

  3. You avoid moving forward with key initiatives because you don't want to upset anyone. Or you back off on something new, whether a new worship approach or an outreach ministry, when people don't like what is happening. Edwin Friedman called this "valuing peace over progress."

Sometimes being "nice" is more about being anxious when people get upset with us. I'm preaching to myself as much as to anyone else: I was socialized to be nice, and I hate it when people get mad at me. Yet mature leadership mean taking stands, which can result in others getting upset with us.

For many in ministry, feeling guilty, feeling mean (or being called mean) is actually a sign you are on the right track. Taking a stand is a key part of ministry leadership.

Are you too nice for your own (and your church's) good?

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