Tough conversations are the worst….especially with your pastor. Nobody wants them, everybody would like to avoid them. Can’t we just sweep them under the carpet, pretend like they don’t exist, and move on? The answer is emphatically No! But here’s the good news. If done right, these talks becomes extremely beneficial to the church, its’ members, and the pastor.
When a tough conversation arises (and it will) face it head on. Don’t beat around the bush. Go and pursue a resolution through grace based conflict. Doing this is Biblical and make both of your lives better. But how? How are we supposed to do these talks in a health way?
What not to do:
Don’t Have Difficult Conversations on Sunday Morning:
Sunday morning is crazy for pastors, and it’s great. We love talking with everyone, catching up, and praying for you. It’s not a time for tough conversations though. Our ability to focus on an extended discussion is limited on Sunday morning. So if you want to get a pastor’s undivided attention, don’t do it on Sunday morning. Your success rate will plummet.
Don’t do it through email or text:
This method, because of it’s impersonal features, leads to misconceptions, easily avoided hurt feelings, and unnecessary problems. An email or text lends itself to being rude in a way that face to face rarely allows. At all cost avoid email or text, they are both unhelpful methods because of the lack of nuance and body language allowed in their style of communication.
Don’t be a jerk:
If you express overt combativeness out of the gate, expect to get a zero in the results category. Nobody likes to be attacked. It initiates the fight or flight mentality in our brains, and most pastors are natural born fighters. Instead of rude, use Ephesians 4:29 as the foundation for your difficult conversation.
What to do:
Meet in person:
Tough conversations are like physical therapy, painful but beneficial, and the best way to have these chats is face to face. It gives you the time and space to speak, listen, and understand one another. Your body language, tone, and heart will all be seen and heard more clearly in a person to person method vs email or text, but let me remind you, the in person method should not be on Sunday morning. Do it throughout the week.
Pastor’s are constantly facing ten thousand battles and you may be aware of 3. The expectation for ministry professional is that they preach as good as Billy Graham, lead the staff as well as Steve Jobs, and have a family working so well they could be a stock photo in a picture frame. These are impossible ideals to assume a pastor can follow, but they are the unspoken, unwritten rules of ministerial leadership.
Because pastors are incapable of living up to these unrealistic views, be patient with us. Extend grace from the very beginning, which means you start from a place of understanding instead of anger. Grace will always get you a better response than anger or intimidation.
Help resolve instead of just complain:
A complaint against is not a solution for. Church members will say things like “Your church needs a singles ministry. Why don’t we have a ministry for retirees? Your teenagers are out of control at this church!”
To which a smart pastor will respond with “Why don’t you start a singles ministry? I’m so glad you offered to minister to our retirees, when are you starting? Are you going to start being a youth leader?” If you are just a complainer, it helps with nothing, but if you have solutions, that’s a different story.
Our church has a few people with hearing aids who were having difficulty hearing the sermons. One of those individuals offered to buy some devices specifically to help resolve this problem. Our worship pastor researched it and moved forward on this idea because it wasn’t just a complaint. There was a solution.
Solutions get results. Complaints get nothing. So start with a position of I would like to help rather than I can’t believe you don’t.
How have you found the best ways to have difficult conversations with your pastor?