A seasoned pastor once told me, “Every pastor has a difficult conversation, they are avoiding.” Is that true for you? Is there a necessary conversation you keep putting off?
Where there are honest relationships, there will be conflict. Churches are no exception. Our churches deal with misunderstandings, improper motives, a lack of clear expectations, failure, and even sin. Learning to be a good leader includes a willingness to have difficult conversations.
Early in my pastoral ministry I learned that one of our adult Sunday School teachers was teaching a “hyper-faith” false doctrine, and was instructing his students not go to the doctor. He believed that if Christians went to the doctor and took prescription medication, they were demonstrating a lack of faith.
Of course I had to address the situation, yet as a new pastor in the church I was afraid of the potential conflict. After all, this man was respected in the church and had taught the class for more than 20 years. I delayed my conversation with the teacher, convincing myself that it was too risky, and not worth the possible repercussions and division in the church.
Unfortunately, the situation got worse. An elderly man in the class who was suffering with pre-dementia stopped taking his medication as an “act of faith.” A few days later, his family was demanding to meet with me, and were wondering why we influenced their dad to stop taking his medication.
I had no choice but to have a confrontational meeting with the teacher. I informed him that his doctrinal view conflicted with our church’s beliefs, and that he must immediately stop teaching the “hyper-faith” position. Within a short-time, the man left the church with a group of his “followers.”
Lessons learned? Confrontational meetings are a pastoral necessity. The quicker we deal with issues the better it is. Often the solution to our problem is just a difficult conversation we don’t want to have.
So we wait…and things get worse.
A situation that was manageable months ago becomes overwhelming, simply because we let it fester and grow into something more difficult than it would have, had we dealt with it sooner.
Patrick Lencioni argues that the absence of conflict is one of the signs of a dysfunctional team. There are no healthy relationships without hard conversations.
Mistakes we make regarding difficult conversations…
Here are some considerations for your next confrontational meeting…
1. Pray for wisdom and insight. Make sure your heart is right towards God, and the individual you need to talk with.
2. Get advice from a trusted mentor. If you are dealing with a situation you have never faced before, chances are someone else has.
3. Prepare what you need to say - write it down. Rehearse what you will say. Be very clear and concise.
4. Decide when and where you will have the conversation.
5. Determine you will control your emotions, regardless of the other person’s response. Believe the best, and don’t assume they have improper motives.
6. Have the meeting face to face…not by text, email, or by letter, and definitely not on social media.
7. Affirm the relationship…declare your love and care for the person. The “Sandwich Approach” usually works well in a confrontational setting.
- Affirm and compliment
- Confront the issue
- Affirm and compliment
8. Ask necessary questions…and listen! I usually ask this question: “Help me understand…”
9. Confront the issue as clearly as possible. Be clear about your expectations. Be direct. You may have to fight the inner temptation to avoid clearly stating the issue. Determine you are going to say what needs to be said. You don’t want to leave the conversation regretting that you left something out. Avoidance will lead to another difficult meeting down the road.
10. Remember the benefits of confrontation - what do you hope and pray will come from the conversation?
Paul said in Romans 12:18 - “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” "If it is possible"…this includes confrontation. Confrontation can open the door to reconciliation and deeper relationships.
Bonus tip: Depending on the issue, there are times when having a third-party in the room is advisable.
Question: Is there a confrontational meeting you are avoiding? What have you learned that has helped these meetings be more productive?
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past