We deal with interpersonal differences all the time – In the workplace, our ministries, and in our home with our marriages and children. These differences are in our approach to processing information, solving problems, managing change, and facing risk. How we deal with the differences in our ministry teams can determine how effective they will be.
Rodney Cox, founder of Ministry Insights offers the following insights in a recent series called The Truth about Differences. Our natural tendency is to view differences as a problem and a source of conflict. When we view differences in this way, we either judge others thinking they are not like us so we cant’ get along, or we judge ourselves thinking we are not like others and we don’t fit in. One leads to conflict and frustration and the other leads to isolation.
Another common response to differences is to superficially accept them. This seemingly tolerant response is deceptive because it assumes a person’s differences are his “choice.” They clearly are not. God gives differences to each of us deliberately and intentionally. Mere tolerance presents yet another problem. Rather than embracing strengths in others, tolerance merely endures them. This approach separates people. Deep down, each of us craves acceptance and affirmation of our uniqueness.
Why would God create people to be unique and not provide a way for us to get along? Strife need not be the norm, nor is it the intention in God’s order of things. People’s differences can divide us, but it’s God’s design for our differences to complete us. Rather than simply “putting up with” others’ differences, God calls us to embrace them. The strengths you have been given and others have been given are for mutual benefit. Combining them together is God’s design and offers advantages for everyone. If you see your differences as strengths, you face a life of productivity and fulfillment. If you see others’ differences as strengths, you value you them and find ways to blend together.
When it comes to blending your strengths with others on your team, it comes down to two choices. You can shrug off differences with others in the name of tolerance and remain isolated. Or you can accept the challenge to embrace others’ strengths and blend them with your own, thereby enriching your life and the lives of those around you. To be sure, your choice impacts your relationships. But ultimately, your decision about blending differences reveals how you view God. You can ignore God’s role in creating each of us with differences or you can value how He made each of us.
So how should you deal with differences? Depending on your understanding of differences, they can either divide you or unite you with people in your life. Hopefully this concept of different by design will transform your relationships and increase the effectiveness of your ministry team.