Getting people to work together

First of a five-part series

Doug Burrell, a Baptist pastor from Rome, Georgia, is the director of Discovery Resources.

Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to get people to work  together? Even in the church? Paul told us that not all can be an eye or a hand or an ear in the body; if that were the case, what would the body be (see 1 Cor. 12:14fT.)? Apparently the apostle struggled with getting people to work together. He wrote to the Corinthian Christians about the importance of honoring each part of the body. He emphasized that although every organ and part of the body is different, each part plays an important role in helping the body to function and flourish.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions to help you experience greater co operation from people of your congregation, even if they are different from you.

Recognize that every person is motivated

Paul knew something that every pastor would do well to consider. He knew that everyone is motivated. However, we are not all motivated by the same needs. With a little reflection you can call to mind someone who is motivated by needs that are different from yours. One church member may be motivated by the need for being with people and planning a class fellowship while another gets really excited over a 10-week study of "tent stakes." One person is moved by accomplishing tasks, while another is moved by keeping the peace. This is so because we all tend to operate from one of four primary motivating needs: results, social recognition, stability, or accuracy. These basic needs express themselves in a DISC model. DISC is an acronym for four dearly identifiable styles of behavior: dominant (need for results), influencing (need for social recognition), steadiness (need for stability), and conscientiousness (need for accuracy).*

Be aware that people do things for their reasons, not yours

It might be nice if everyone wanted to do things just like you. But that's not the case! We all have our own specific motivators. These are based on how we perceive the world around us, what lifelong strategy we have devised to cope with the world, and what kind of people we meet in specific situations. Many times pastors are unsuccessful in leading because we appeal to people in the wrong way. We may be asking people to do things for our reasons and not theirs. There is an alternative way.

Consider people's needs

Hebrews 10:24 (RSV) directs us to "consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." There is a temptation toward trying to manipulate people to our way of doing things. However, that results in resistance (and resentment). A more effective way to get folks to join you is to appeal to their preference for results, social recognition, stability, or accuracy. If you will "consider" their needs and preferences before you seek to "stir them up," you will gain so much more cooperation.

Lead to meet people's needs

Ministry offers opportunities every day to apply this DISC model of behavioral styles. If you are a pastor whose primary need is for results, you may have difficulty with the chairperson of your board whose primary need is for stability. You want results and thrive on change. The chairperson wants to make sure everyone is happy and the waters are not stirred up. If you are going to lead this person, you must appeal to him or her on the basis of his or her needs. You will need to slow down, be flexible, and show concern. As you do, you will appeal to his or her needs and be more likely to gain cooperation. At the least you will have respect, even if you do not win the chairperson over on the particular issue at hand. After all, there will be other issues to consider at another time. You will have built trust and goodwill. He or she will be more likely to see your consideration and be willing to trust your leadership in the future. Meanwhile, you will have proved yourself to be a worthy leader.

Of course, we could also consider the case in which the styles are reversed. The pastor might display the steadiness style and the chairperson might express the dominant style. In this case the chairperson may be impatient for action or results, whereas the pastor sees the wisdom of not forcing issues until the congregation is less likely to experience upset and conflict. Again, you will be more effective by recognizing your church members' needs and appealing to them with that in mind.

Reap the positive benefits

Learning more about the needs of your people and how you can appeal to them based on their needs has so many positive benefits. Doing this can help you gain greater cooperation in the congregation you serve. It will also help you to avoid unnecessary conflict, gain the respect and appreciation of those you pastor, and advance the cause of Christ more effectively. In short, you will be a more credible and effective pastor.

The DISC model of behavior is based on
the work of William M. Marston and John
G. Geier. It helps people understand their
behavioral tendencies in particular situations
so they can adapt their behavior to be more
effective. As such, it is a great tool for enhancing
ministry effectiveness and helping people
in relationships to understand each other and
meet each other's needs more effectively.

This article is the first in a five-part series.


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Doug Burrell, a Baptist pastor from Rome, Georgia, is the director of Discovery Resources.

April 1997

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