Yesterday, I shared a friend’s request for help in a sticky situation in leadership and asked for your feedback. As promised, today I’m sharing what I suggested she do. See what you think. These are my actual words to her:
For the visitor: I would respond to the email. I would express sorrow and disappointment that she did not feel the love and friendliness your church is so well-known for. (Perception is reality, so if she felt unloved then she views your church as unloving). Ask if something specific happened to upset her and quickly address those issues, letting her know that you will do all you can so that it doesn’t happen again. Share the vision/mission of your church with her and assure her that your goal is to love people well because Christ loved people so well. I would most definitely apologize for her experience.
I know you are probably thinking that the lady is wrong….and she might be! Nevertheless, I often find that by being a peacemaker and showering others with kindness and understanding I shame them OR help them gain a new perspective of the situation. In other words, give this lady a reason to believe that the leaders of the church are loving, thoughtful people.
For the church member: If she is a constant source of divisiveness or disunity, the pastor could schedule a meeting to discuss her ability to be part of the congregation. If she is unhappy with the vision, unsatisfied with the programs, or disappointed in leadership (for whatever reason), she is going to struggle in the church. THAT’S OK! Not every church is for every person. Explain to her that part of the membership covenant of the church body is unity and loyalty with the members AND the leadership team. If she continues to express negativity, she will adversely effect the church by stirring up feelings of disharmony. No church can continue like that. It is not good for volunteer teams, small groups, or the corporate church. Assure her that you love her and that if she needs to find another church to join – one that more closely aligns with her ideas – you will support her and still be her friend. No hard feelings. This is a conversation for whichever pastor she most closely relates to.
The goal is to win the relationship, not to win the argument. However, wisdom knows when to let the relationship go….not because you’re tired of dealing with it, but because it is doing harm to the Body as a whole. The ministry leadership team is responsible for protecting the flock from the divisiveness that can cripple the leadership in the eyes of others.
This isn’t the last time you will deal with disgruntled people, sadly. But, this experience will make you more prepared for the next. Be gentle as doves but wise as a serpent (Matt 10:16). Do all you can to keep peace among the brothers (Romans 12:18). And lead well.
So there you have it. I could have shortened and edited it, but I felt led to give you guys very specific details on one way to respond to conflict and criticism. To be sure, there are several ways to effectively address situations like this, but I pray this post helps you. And I pray you are better prepared to lead well!