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How To Deal With
Dr. Jekyl--Mr. Hyde In Your Church
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
Examining Our System Roles
The Hero is the member of the family who is the focus of positive energies. This individual "plays" or is "appointed" to be the one everyone admires. His or her achievements are always elevated while their mistakes are played down.
The Spiritual Leader in the family is the one to whom the family turns to for guidance, support, wisdom and insight. Though others may not be "spiritual," the family's Spiritual Leader is the one to whom they turn with those items of religion, fate, and determining the will of God.
4) The Lost Child:
The Lost Child is a loner who never finds themselves. Always in the midst of the family and looking for love and acceptance, the Lost Child is accommodated but not loved. The Lost Child is an emotional orphan neglected, uncured for, and left to take care of himself.
In response to the fear of being left out (as the Lost Child) and a dread of a guilt-ridden loneliness (as the Scapegoat), the Mascot is marked by visible behaviors which draw attention to himself. Positive Mascot behavior is marked by the ability to joke around, provide fun, humor and release of tension in the family. At other times they will be the "cute" one or clown that people point to and enjoy. Whether the Mascot's behavior is constructive or destruction, one thing is sure: the Mascot will be hard to ignore.
6) The Scapegoat:
- This family member is the constant recipient of unfair and hostile projections, many of which may be undeserved. As steam needs to be released from a boiling keg to keep it from bursting, so family and relationship systems need a release valve to ease the "pressure" of family. The Scapegoat is that release.
The Primary Objective: Equilibrium
Table: Combinations of Anxious
Non-Anxious System Roles
Anxious System Roles
As this table demonstrates, an individual may be a Mascot in the non-anxious role and a Hero in their anxious role (Mascot-Hero). Or, an individual may be a Hero in their non-anxious role and, in their anxious role, a Scapegoat (Hero-Scapegoat).
Other possible combinations include, for example, Enabler-Mascot, Scapegoat-Hero, et al. As the table indicates, individuals may have identical non-anxious and anxious roles, e.g. Enabler-Enabler, Mascot-Mascot, Spiritual Leader-Spiritual Leader, et al.
1) Why members may suddenly display inexplicable "Jekyl and Hyde" behaviors;
2) Why seemingly peaceful and pleasant churches can, in an anxious state, become quite unstable and destructive;
3) Why pastors may act "out of character" from their normal "non-anxious" role in conflict;
4) Why congregational leaders and pastors, who undergo their own stress shifts, may not be able to handle crisis in a congregation which is also in stress shift;
5) Why pastors suddenly find themselves "betrayed" or alone without the expected and experienced support in relatively non-anxious system conditions;
- 6) Why some members, in conflict, will become unusually vocal while others will escape (e.g. Lost Child) and leave the church without saying a word to anyone;
1) Recognize that often, when people express their anxious reactions in the church, the presented issue is probably not the issue (cf. Ministry Health Article, "The Issue Is Not The Issue")
2) Especially in anxious times, adopt a strategy for pastoral care including a personal visit to the homes of the anxious on an individual basis to discuss and, if possible, soothe their anxiety. When on their own home territory, individuals will likely feel "safer" to share their anxieties. Sometimes during such visits, keen observers will note certain clues to the cause(s) of the anxiety in their home, work, family, etc.
3) When individuals take on additional responsibilities and circumstances (e.g. become single parents, take care of elderly parent in the home, lose a job, take on a second job, dealing with adolescent rebellion, face retirement, etc), take special notice of the potential for stress shifts. often used in marketing and evangelistic literature to measure "receptivity," the Holmes-Rahe Stress indicator may be especially helpful to identify various individual stressors.
4) When stress occurs, expect behavioral changes in such individuals and respond appropriately. Offer an appropriate degree of quality, empathetic pastoral support as early as possible so that they understand that you recognize their situation. Give assurances of your concern and be prayerfully supportive and pastorally available as they have need. This is especially important in your ministry to those high-anxiety individuals who, in their anxious stress shifts, take on antagonistic system roles.
5) When anxiety regarding church issues is expressed, provide an appropriate forum for the anxiety to be voiced and expressed. Listen to their concerns and help them look for opportunities to address their issues and concerns. Nothing soothes like a genuinely listening ear.
6) Listening and empathy, however, do not preclude that the ministry of the congregation must stop in its tracks.
6) Help foster a congregational environment which does not inhibit an ongoing appropriate sharing of personal anxieties. Prayer partners, varieties of small fellowship groups (e.g. sharing, recovery, etc, and after worship altar counselors, etc.) can go a long way to build such an environment. After all, isn't anxiety reduction through trusting God and His leading in our lives what prayer, worship, and Bible Study are really all about?
7) Have periodic sermon series or Bible Classes on various Biblically-based, anxiety-related relationship issues (e.g. divorce, marriage enrichment, how to take care of the elderly, boundaries, adult child issues, substance abuse, how to deal with suffering, development of Christian coping mechanisms, etc.)
8) Have leaders list the anxieties which they feel are in the congregation and brainstorm ways that they and the congregation can positively and effectively addressed these anxiety needs.
9) Make a study of Edwin Friedman's landmark book, From Generation to Generation, especially as it relates to your situation. Chapters 8 and 9 of Friedman's book are especially insightful.
10) Consider leading a workshop or seminar on congregational anxiety. One possible workshop might be "Reasons For Congregational Conflict" in the Ministry Health Web Site Resource Archives. Of course, consider other Ministry Health articles which may be helpful resources for you or your leaders.
11) Never scapegoat those in their anxious stress shifts. Deal with them with the most prudent pastoral care possible. The most highly sensitive and anxious often have a history of distrust, especially of leaders (e.g. pastors). Go easy and try to understand them (cf. Ministry Health's "Thirteen Ways To Recognize The Adult Child..." and other related Ministry Health Articles).
12) Finally, when anxiety and conflict start to build, do not hesitate to contact your judicatory or denominational executives. Those who are skilled with conflict situations may be quite willing to give their support. Do not consider it a weakness to seek their counsel and support. A timely intervention by an outsider can literally save congregations and pastors untold measures of grief, anger and frustration.
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
Articles 200-249 Articles 250-299 Articles 300-349 Articles 350-399
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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:14 PM