Why Nice People Kill Churches

For the last 12 years I’ve had the incredible opportunity to serve on the Sr. Leadership Teams of some of the nations fastest growing and leading churches. Over that time I’ve observed time and time again one of the most destructive inclinations to church growth and the advancement of the Gospel is the simple fact that people on staff at most churches are simply too nice to each other.

5 Ways Nice People Hurt the Mission of the Church

1. Nice people have a tendency to hire people that they like rather than people who are going to advance the mission of the church. In other words it’s okay to lose as long as you’re losing with friends.

2. Nice people avoid conflict and by so doing don’t mine the best ideas out of their teams.

3. Nice people keep people on their teams well after the work has surpassed their capacity. This not only slows the mission but it exposes the weaknesses of and hurts the very person they’re trying to protect.

4. Nice people don’t confront the brutal facts and as a result “hallway conversations” take place and a lack of unity begins to undermine the mission.

5. Nice people sacrifice the flock for the sake of one sheep. This happens every time you let that one person sing who has no business singing (if you’ve been around church-world for any length of time you know exactly what I’m talking about).

Let me be clear, what I’m not saying is that the staff at your church shouldn’t be nice to each other. But when being nice begins to trump being honest because you don’t want to experience the discomfort of a difficult conversation, that’s not nice…that’s selfish. And when that begins to happen everybody loses.

In his new book “The Advantage” Patrick Lencioni says it this way, “Firing someone is not necessarily a sign of accountability, but is often the last act of cowardice for a leader who  doesn’t know how or isn’t willing to hold people accountable.” 

There’s a strong principle and clear message in there that many church leaders need to take some time and wrestle to the ground.

Posted in Leadership

9 Responses to “Why Nice People Kill Churches”

  1. Stacy February 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    I think in some ways we should look at running a church like running a business. Too many times, our churches tend to hire friends or familiar people rather than passion, calling and skill, and they suffer for it.

    • Paul Alexander February 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      Stacy, Often times churches are guilty of making the “convenient hire” instead of the “right hire.” But then again many businesses do this too. But no I don’t think the church is a business, the church is the body of Christ. However there are some great principles that the church can learn from business world or then again by ready Proverbs 🙂

      • Stacy February 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

        I love love this kind of thinking! I’m trying to wrap my head around principles of wisdom and have recently started reading and seeking out blogs etc to help me in my quest. I’ve found many of your posts to be thought provoking, challenging and every once-in-a-while confirming what I thought was right but didn’t know why. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jayne Schaefer February 25, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Great post, Paul! I have personally found this to be so true. Truly loving someone ( including your church) means that sometimes you will need to make choices that may make people unhappy, but can acutally help them flourish and grow. The trick is that these difficult choices must be executed in and with love.

  3. Samuel Knerl March 2, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    You’re heading the direction of what you want to say, but in effect I think your post missed the real point. You can be nice…joyfully nice all the time without doing points 1, 2, 3, 4 , or 5. In my home state of Nebraska, we have a great leader, former coach, Dr, Admin of athletics, and legislator named Tom Osborne who most would state as the nicest guy in the state, quite possibly the country. Being nice is not equal to enabling. Yes, nice people have to be careful that they don’t do these things because they do have a great understanding (capability of walking through life trying on other’s person’s shoes) however keeping balance in Christ which means demonstrating real love and what is best as well as excellence requires more of us than what enabling will give us all. In the end, being nice means you must lovingly confront, choose the best fit for leadership, value ideas from all and allowing an open conversation to glean wisdom, value leadership biblical principles (living principled lives) that include transparency and living above reproach letting your yes be yes and no be no, while also nice means falling on the grenade instead of allowing the team to be affected. Your definition of “nice” is just as invalid as the definition of “nice” used by pro teams when evaluating Christian athletes. Nice doesn’t have to mean enabling without balance or principled living nor lacking in the desire to compete towards excellence. It just means taking a higher road to achieve it. There are questions a “nice” person needs to ask. Are you neglectful of your own welfare and practice a martyrdom? This is not about “nice people” this is about people pleasing which is a sin. This comes from our own fears and low self-esteem. This is about “approval addiction” not “being nice”. Outwardly nice many times covers up the manipulation and ineffective management for self-preservation…not “being nice”.

  4. Eric July 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    I think the concept of “being nice” you illustrate here can also apply to temporary hires made to meet specific needs in a service capacity. For example, any time contract work is required for a building project, marketing project, repair, tenant improvement, technology upgrade, legal counsel, or the like, “we” (the Church) gravitate toward hiring people we know. I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this idea, but there could be a chance that the regular Contractor has been doing work just fine for a long time, and the work is good, but the project may have exceeded the capacity of the contractor with whom a long-time relationship has been had. In this case, good is the enemy of great.

  5. Bud Brown September 4, 2015 at 7:34 am #

    Thank you for this fine post.

    Over the years I’ve had numerous opportunities to coach pastors struggling with an underperforming or passive-aggressive staff member, church officer, or volunteer ministry leader. Invariably they fail to understand that their own desire to avoid conflict and to do “the Christian thing” places the welfare of the one (the underperformer) over the welfare of the many (the rest of the flock).

    My advice is always, “If you think this can be resolved by holding them accountable and insisting on performance, then stop wasting time. If you think there is no solution apart from ‘out placement’ then do yourself and them a favor and get it over with. They are certainly unhappy in one degree or another, so why prolong the pain?”

    There’s more to it than that, of course, but the gist of my coaching is, “Why are you dithering on this?”

    Thanks once again for this. Good work.


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