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North American Guide to Church Dragons

How to identify and approach two dangerous species.

Two categories of people can make life particularly hard for a pastor: the passive-aggressive person and the projector. I call them "dragons," a metaphor Leadership senior editor Marshall Shelley coined in his book Well-Intentioned Dragons.

Here's how to recognize when such dragons sneak up on your back side and how to deflect their assaults—crucial survival skills in pastoral work.

1. Frustratorius Slipperious

The passive-aggressive congregant is more likely to smile than to snarl. This person appears friendly and supportive.

Only after you've entrusted this dragon with an important task will you begin to be confused. You thought you heard, "Oh, yes, I'd love to do that," but the job went unfinished. Worse, you seem powerless to discover what actually happened. Attempts to confront the issue are likely to end with you looking like an insensitive dictator (rather than the compassionate, understanding person you really are).

Individuals whose primary relational style is passive-aggressive ...

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