During my tenure at a church where the worship space doubled as a gym, setting up chairs was a weekly routine. The chairs weren’t your typical lightweight folding type but rather hefty, cushioned ones, each with a hymnal rack. The task of preventing hymnals from tumbling onto the floor added an extra layer of complexity. Despite the nuisance, as the worship intern reporting to the lead pastor, I recognized the importance of hymnals for many worshippers and didn’t want a worship war on my hands.
As several years passed, and the hymnal wear and tear continued, I suddenly had an abrupt Monday morning revelation – the hymnals were missing. All of them. To my embarrassment, I hadn’t noticed their absence the day before during worship, given the use of the screen.
Naturally, I went to the church administrator to investigate. Don’t all church administrators get the problems and have all-knowing access to God to know what to do? Upon my investigation, the church administrator revealed to me that his own chair setup crew had stashed the worn hymnals in a storage cabinet behind the chairs. “Thank you so much!” I said. “Why are you thanking me?” he asked. I explained, “Since you were the ones who put the hymnals away without me knowing it — my team wouldn’t be blamed for it. I could simply tell others that it was a mistake someone else has made. So, thank you!” Naively grateful, I later learned the administrator’s true motive. He confessed to purposely hiding the hymnals, hoping for some kind of church uprising against my team when the hymnals were missing. While his confession was shocking, I didn’t feel too bad when he admitted that my unintentional gratitude of thanks had served as a form of guilt punishment for him. Who knew that a simple thank you could be a unknowing slap in the face. And I was just as wrong has be to be thankful that he felt bad. We were both sinners.
In reflecting, the importance of open communication within a team is vital to the culture of the team. Whether sharing complex concerns or admitting personal mistakes, transparent communication is critical for team unity. Although I wish the administrator had expressed their grievances directly before the hymnal heist, their eventual confession aligns with the principle of James 5:16a – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” And I’m sure the administrator felt healed that he didn’t have to carry around the weight of all those missing hymnals for years to come. In fact, the administrator and I had a great relationship years following.
The best teams know how to navigate conflict in a healthy way — rooted in a trust in each team member’s good intentions. And if intentions turn bad and misbehaver happens, the better behavior than continued bad behavior is self-corrected behavior. Paul said in Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
May our teams be behave in a way that we trust each other; and when we misbehave (and we all will) — let’s admit it, confess it, and heal our way to a healthy team.