Margaret Marcuson: What a motley space crew says about church leadership

Do you wonder how to handle the diverse personalities you’ve ended up with in your congregation? Have you seen their quirks intensify under the stress of the times we are living in? Are you finding it harder to make progress with ministry when you can’t talk in person?

I recently watched the documentary Never Surrender, about the making of the 90s movie Galaxy Quest. I highly recommend both movies. We saw Galaxy Quest with our school-aged kids in the 90s and we all loved it and still do. 

The movie tells the story of a group of washed-up actors from an old TV show (think Star Trek) who make their living appearing at fan conventions, and wind up actually going into space. A group of aliens who have watched the show from space believe that the crew can save them just like they saved countless others on TV. They come to earth and kidnap the “crew” and launch them into space. 

As they handle this unexpected adventure, the disparate personalities clash. The “captain” (actor Jason Nesmith, who played Commander Taggert in the show), played by Tim Allen of Home Improvement, is a hopeless egomaniac. The great British actor Alan Rickman plays a Shakespearean actor playing an alien (a Spock stand-in for you Star Trek fans), who is impatient and dismissive of the others, especially Tim Allen’s character. Sigourney Weaver is the token woman character (think Star Trek’s Uhura), and irritated at that fact. They have to figure out how to work together to face the challenge and danger. The show is brilliant and touching. 

In the documentary, we learn about the quirks of the “crew” of the movie: Tim Allen was always late, and always playing pranks on the set. Alan Rickman always showed up on time and knew not only his lines but everyone else’s. The director, Dean Parisot was a replacement for Harold Ramis (of Ghostbusters fame). He’s the one who had to keep this “crew” going. He knew he wanted this to be far more than a cartoonish kids movie. He also knew how to deal with the disparate gifts and personalities of the various actors to help them all make something wonderful together.

What does this have to do with church? Like the movie and the cast, in church, we end up with a motley crew of folks--some take the effort more seriously than others (and some take it too seriously). Some are better at the work than others, and easier to be around than others. Like the movie director, leaders need to be able to stay calm and clear about what they are after.

How to do it? It’s not easy, but here are three ideas:

1...Keep the big picture (the “quest”) in mind. Keep your own purpose in mind.

2...Appreciate people for who they are and what they bring to the ministry, in spite of and sometimes because of their quirks.

3...Avoid getting caught up in the craziness of the moment. Pray, take breaks, then repeat #1 and #2.

Click here to get six more strategies for creating an energized and sustained ministry as well as creating more space in your life and work in ministry.