Author Topic: “Now, who could it be? Could it be ... Satan?” AKA Dealing with Church Ladies  (Read 9742 times)

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Poppea

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I belong to a a great church.  Like many churches a great deal of work is done by the "church ladies".  Of varying ages they are there almost every day, helping out in the office, hanging with the rector, running things.  Many are very nice people.  All are well intentioned.  Some , but by no means all, are highly invested socially with the church. 

My group of "church friends" and I aren't quite as involved in the church.  We prefer to work on discrete projects - a fundraiser for this or that, a particular event.  You could say that in terms of church volunteering we tend to "parachute" in, do our jobs and then leave the field clear.  No of us is interested in hanging out at the church office in our down time, joining the vestry or being the rectors fangirl. 

Our projects/events have tended to have very very good attendance, raised lots of money and well, are really lots more fun than the regular ones.  Its probably because my friends have all been involved in lots of other not for profit fundraisers and know what works.  N

You would think that everyone would be thrilled - but not necessarily.  A few of us have noticed that some of the "church ladies" will subtly make things more difficult for the event planner.  Deleting information from an evite.  Promising staff help and then not scheduling the staffers.  If something needs to be approved, using far more editorial control than necessary.  I'm talking about stuff similar to trying to control the table decorations at a pancake breakfast.  There is no doubt that it is deliberate.  We have all noticed it separately.

For the most part, we've figured out how to get around some of it by just emailing the rector and getting his approval for this little stuff directly.   He probably thinks we're detail obsessive.  We get that they are taking it personally when someone pops in, doubles attendance at a church event and everyone raves about how much more fun it was this year.  But, that was what we were supposed to do.

Given that none of us really wants to be more involved with this group of ladies (and they are perfectly lovely people if you aren't poaching in their territory) can anyone suggest any strategies for dealing with them?  We do not want to involve the rector because these ladies do devote a great deal of time to the church (and many are very generous donors too).  And the stuff is so petty that they would be sure to say it was just an oversight.

Frostblooded

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Actually, if this is being done deliberately, these are not very nice ladies. I would suggest speaking to a ranked spiritual advisor on what course or action to take in regards to them; this isn't a very nice thing and shouldn't be going on at all. I'm sure a pastor/whatever would like to know it is.

citadelle

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Actually, if this is being done deliberately, these are not very nice ladies. I would suggest speaking to a ranked spiritual advisor on what course or action to take in regards to them; this isn't a very nice thing and shouldn't be going on at all. I'm sure a pastor/whatever would like to know it is.
If these church ladies are like my church ladies, they probably view this and would frame it as trying to make sure everything goes well, as in, do these young girls really know how it is done kind of thing.

Could one of them be on your committee? Or could you call one for advice, needed or not? I guess I I'm suggesting making them feel included somehow.

Good luck. For what it's worth, I get it and believe that they probably are basically nice women.

Docslady21

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Good pastors do not want mean girl behavior. Bring it up because someone needs to correct these catty women with a spray bottle. Church is for faith and God, not for creating cliques and animosity. This is not the proper attitude of any faith I've encountered.

If you choose not to go that route, I would do the following:

1. Secure your own volunteers. Get your hands on the list via the pastor and take care of it yourself.
2. Stop asking for approval from them. They have no authority as far as I can tell.
3. Ask the rector about everything. If the rector gets sick of it, you have a golden conversation opener.

gramma dishes

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Does everything your group does have to be run past these church ladies?  I'm not sure I understand how they're involved in such a way that they can make things more difficult. 

How can they manipulate an evite?  Are they the ones wording it and uploading it?
Can your committee schedule the staffers yourselves instead of having the church ladies do the staffing?
How do they get 'editorial control'?  Can't you just do this stuff yourselves and get it approved by whoever needs to okay it?

I honestly don't think they're doing all this interfering to be "helpful".  I think they're envious that your events go smoothly and achieve a degree of success that's unprecedented and they don't like that.  I smell Sabotage.

Poppea

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1.  The newsletter and evites are sent out by a staffer/volunteer.  A church lady/vestry member approves all outgoing communications.  Getting approval of outgoing communications is standard in many organizations.  Its the crazy editing.  (Changing wording, design elements etc when the originals were totally fine.

We can't schedule staffers.  Its been stupid stuff like not scheduling the sexton to clean up after an event, so the volunteers had to do all the work themselves. 


doodlemor

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  I think they're envious that your events go smoothly and achieve a degree of success that's unprecedented and they don't like that.  I smell Sabotage.

I smell it too, with a faint odor of brimstone. 

I think that several of your group should get together and make a list of all the mean girl stuff that they have done, and then go to the rector.

Don't  tell him that they did this deliberately, though.  Males don't always  understand the nasty subtleties of mean girl behavior.  If he does catch on - great - but you can't count on it.

Instead, tell the rector that your group has really enjoyed doing xyz fund raisers for the church.  However, the individuals in some of the positions in the church got **mixed up** when trying to help, and consequently goofed up some of the efforts by the volunteers.  You could call these things "misunderstandings," too.

Discuss your list with him so that he understands the ramifications of the "mistakes" that these ladies have done.  Make sure that he understands that these problems have created extra work for volunteers, who might not be so eager to help again. 

Ask/tell/beseech  the rector to let your group have sole control of your events from start to finish - including the notification to the sexton.

*inviteseller

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Let me see if I can paint a picture of the seriously involved church ladies...all 50+ yrs old, never worked outside of the house, kids are gone, have been members of the church 20 years or more?  That was the ones that ruled the roost at the church I grew up in.  Sweet nice ladies UNTIL someone younger or with less years vested tried to 'take over' the pancake breakfasts or spaghetti dinners or the nursery.  Then these women became just evil.  They did not like that the ministers wife ran the office for him...they weren't the first to know and make judgement calls.  The younger group, that was by no means 'taking over' running of operations but were just trying to help hit the same snags you are.  All you can continue to do is circumvent them and run everything pass your rector and just smile when they try their PA games.  These women have the church as their lives and don't want to give up as much as a decision of which syrup to use at the pancake breakfast.

Poppea

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Let me see if I can paint a picture of the seriously involved church ladies...all 50+ yrs old, never worked outside of the house, kids are gone, have been members of the church 20 years or more?  That was the ones that ruled the roost at the church I grew up in.  Sweet nice ladies UNTIL someone younger or with less years vested tried to 'take over' the pancake breakfasts or spaghetti dinners or the nursery.  Then these women became just evil.  They did not like that the ministers wife ran the office for him...they weren't the first to know and make judgement calls.  The younger group, that was by no means 'taking over' running of operations but were just trying to help hit the same snags you are.  All you can continue to do is circumvent them and run everything pass your rector and just smile when they try their PA games.  These women have the church as their lives and don't want to give up as much as a decision of which syrup to use at the pancake breakfast.

CRUD MONKEYS! - I almost gave the example of syrup at the pancake breakfast.  It wasn't that exactly, but something very similar at another event.  Completely micromanaging an absurd thing to the point where we were sitting back and laughing among ourselves at how anyone could possibly care about something so petty.  Like insisting that the napkin folds at a dinner be the "fan" shape rather than "bishops mitre".  So petty that you're highly amused, irritated, and sorry for her at the same time.

Its pretty clear that given their druthers, other volunteers would be relegated to "clean up crew".

*inviteseller

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Lol @ the syrup...these ladies are universal.  Our wonderful minister encouraged the youth to be involved in these activities to make us as much a part of the congregation as the iron fisted ladies and they.were.not.happy!  But they have to understand that as they age, a new group has to be able to step up to the plate as they become unable to do it all or, as what happened at my church, those ladies chased out the minister, got one in they liked and the congregation went from over 200 to honestly a handful and it is now struggling to stay afloat. Even with the tiny group that worships there now, it is still the same women running the show and not letting others join in on the activities that need volunteers.   If people do not feel welcome, they find somewhere else they will be. 

sweetonsno

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I vote for a combination of citadelle and docslady's advice.

I suspect that these women feel slightly resentful about your paratrooper-style involvement in church events. If they're the ones who generally plan and orchestrate the more banal church events (and do the grunt work), I can see why they'd be less than thrilled about being excluded from some of the bigger, "fun" events. If your events are more successful than theirs, then it could just add insult to injury.

Asking them for advice/help of some sort would probably make them feel good. It's a way to show that you recognize that they are experienced, active volunteers. If you can come up with some sort of job to do, all the better. Choosing how to fold the napkins and making sure that the tables are just so will keep them occupied (and out of your hair), and it saves you a spitting match.

I also think it's a good idea to get as much done as possible without their help. When you have to go through them (for getting stuff in the newsletter or sending out email blasts), hopefully they'll behave. If you can distract them with some sort of request for advice/help, maybe they'll forget to interfere in another way. "Joanna, I've emailed you the message to send to the volunteer list. Would you please forward it? And oh, are you and Mabel still doing calligraphy? Those place cards that you made for bridge night were so lovely. Would you two be willing to make labels for the buffet line and beverage table?"

Piratelvr1121

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Lol @ the syrup...these ladies are universal.  Our wonderful minister encouraged the youth to be involved in these activities to make us as much a part of the congregation as the iron fisted ladies and they.were.not.happy!  But they have to understand that as they age, a new group has to be able to step up to the plate as they become unable to do it all or, as what happened at my church, those ladies chased out the minister, got one in they liked and the congregation went from over 200 to honestly a handful and it is now struggling to stay afloat. Even with the tiny group that worships there now, it is still the same women running the show and not letting others join in on the activities that need volunteers.   If people do not feel welcome, they find somewhere else they will be.

My mother in law, while she's still very religious, stopped attending her church because she got tired of stuff like this within the church and she hasn't found any other church she likes since then.   

I think a combination of talking to the rector about the situation, and maybe involving them in some ways would be a good idea.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  You have a right to be here. Be cheerful, strive to be happy. -Desiderata

EllenS

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Having been both the parachuter and the parachutee, let me give a slightly different perspective, and call you to exercise your charity and humility and what, in Lutheran Circles is called "putting the best construction on everything."

Church is not supposed to be about events, numbers and "getting it done", but about relationships, fellowshipping, and serving one another. Yes, the work you are doing is valuable and helpful, but is it possible - just a weeeeee tiny bit possible - that the contempt with which you view these ladies is just as "smellable" to them, as their "sabotage" is to you?

Is it perhaps possible that they are the ones who have to deal with complaints from the most-established members when your ideas strike them as frivolous, lackadaiscal, too-contemporary, or in some way irritating? Maybe they care about the syrup because they know who likes it best, someone who no longer has a loved one at home to do those little things for them?

Is there any chance that the staff complains behind your back that you expect them to drop everything and do things YOUR way, on YOUR schedule?

Is it possible that, rather than sabotaging you, they are trying to run interference for you in relationships and dynamics that you do not have the history to know about?

If you were in their position, might you find it tiresome for people who seem to have very little connection or investment in the group to parachute in and expect to be treated like the Whizz Kids who Make Everything Better?

Do you always - always - ALWAYS spend just as much time setting up chairs, picking up supplies, cleaning up trash, washing yucky dishes, getting papercuts from folding, fighting with glitchy computers, etc, as you do coming up with creative ideas and making suggestions?   Or do you leave that to staff and "old biddies who have nothing better to do"

Do you know what their families and kids are going through, which one of them is showing up to work despite having a flare-up of her chronic pain, which of them has just been diagnosed with cancer, who has a loved one in the hospital, and who has taken a major hit to her retirement funds?  Do you care?  Have you asked?

Is it possible they have observed some or all of these things about you, and are exercising restraint to not say anything and do their best to help and make you successful, because they remember being you and know that someday you will be them?

gellchom

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I vote for a combination of citadelle and docslady's advice.

I suspect that these women feel slightly resentful about your paratrooper-style involvement in church events. If they're the ones who generally plan and orchestrate the more banal church events (and do the grunt work), I can see why they'd be less than thrilled about being excluded from some of the bigger, "fun" events. If your events are more successful than theirs, then it could just add insult to injury.

Asking them for advice/help of some sort would probably make them feel good. It's a way to show that you recognize that they are experienced, active volunteers. If you can come up with some sort of job to do, all the better. Choosing how to fold the napkins and making sure that the tables are just so will keep them occupied (and out of your hair), and it saves you a spitting match.

I also think it's a good idea to get as much done as possible without their help. When you have to go through them (for getting stuff in the newsletter or sending out email blasts), hopefully they'll behave. If you can distract them with some sort of request for advice/help, maybe they'll forget to interfere in another way. "Joanna, I've emailed you the message to send to the volunteer list. Would you please forward it? And oh, are you and Mabel still doing calligraphy? Those place cards that you made for bridge night were so lovely. Would you two be willing to make labels for the buffet line and beverage table?"

This.  Beautifully put.

While I was writing, EllenS posted her excellent post.  I agree with that one, too, also as one who has been in both positions.

Some posters said things like, "it's their life."  Well, if that's so, how would you expect them to feel about being pushed to the side?  What should they do instead, go run the budget committee?  Join a different church where they won't annoy you?  Some kindness and empathy are in order here, no matter who is "right."

No, of course this doesn't make PA or mean behavior okay.  But you can't control their behavior, only your own.  Anyway, the point here isn't to excuse them, it's to help understand what the most effective cure will be.

As Sweetonsno says, don't look for ways to close them out -- look for convenient areas in which to ask them for help and advice.  Ironically, often the best way to get someone to stop meddling or pushing is to invite them in, not to push them away.  Then you eliminate the feeling of exclusion that is driving the pushiness in the first place, and, as a bonus, YOU get a lot of control over the shape the involvement takes.  This works with family, people who want to be your friend, overly social coworkers, and a lot of other things, too, by the way.

And who knows -- you might possibly even learn something from all those years of experience.  And they will learn from you, too.  As Ellen S says, keep some perspective here and remember what your church is really all about.  I bet it has more to do with people than with events.

LeveeWoman

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How can you learn from people who are deliberately screwing  you over?