Uncooperative teacher or volunteer? Here’s how to know when it’s time to confront—and how to do it.
What do you do, as a children’s minister, when one of your suggestions goes ignored? How should you react when a volunteer says, “I’ve been a public school teacher for 13 years and I can tell you one thing-this proposed curriculum won’t work!”
For starters, you can gulp. Then breathe. Like it or not, awkward situations are an unpleasant reality of most any job.
Or as Earl Radford, minister for children at The Peoples Church in Fresno, California, says, “Whether you’re a children’s minister or a business person, we will have to deal with difficult people…even work with them.”
Go ahead, gulp again. You don’t like conflict. You don’t want someone mad at you. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
In fact, sometimes you’d rather put your head behind a pew and hide. But as a children’s minister your responsibility is to serve the needs of your kids…which just might involve rocking that pew a bit.
WHY TEACHERS OR VOLUNTEERS MAY BE UNCOOPERATIVE
It’s normal-even healthy-to have some resistance to change. It’s a self-protective action; the familiar is predictable, probably comfortable. And when you’re presenting a shift in the curriculum, you’re asking someone to invest time in developing new techniques or presentations.
A lack of cooperation can also be a symptom of other problems. Perhaps the disgruntled teacher is unhappy with his position and needs to be reassigned to a different class, a different age group. Or resistance might result from a problem outside the church environment, such as mid-life crisis, depression, menopause, low self-worth, a career demotion or a family problem.
“It’s important to get at why they’re being uncooperative,” says Barbara Bolton of Cincinnati, a former children’s minister. “What might look like a lack of cooperation might be a simple misunderstanding.” For instance, your volunteer might not realize that what you’re requesting her to do is part of her job description.
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STEPS TO CONFRONTATION
Keep in mind that the word “confront” doesn’t mean “open fire!” The first definition in Webster’s New World Dictionary is “to face.” Didn’t Jesus confront sickness? Our Lord faced directly the difficulties of the day. Part of your ministry is to deal honestly with the circumstances around you. This can be done quite well with kindness and courtesy.
Here are six steps to help you move from confrontation to conclusion.
6 STEPS TO CONFRONT EFFECTIVELY
1. Give positive feedback. We all like to be appreciated, stroked, complimented. When you have a situation you must correct or confront, start by pointing out the positives you do see.
“With one gal,” says Radford, “we spent two years just loving her, telling her how special and vital she is to the ministry here. Her attitude and her outlook on life has changed tremendously. Before, she had no self-esteem. Now she’s on a road to a positive Christian growth experience.”
Give compliments. Inform a teacher when you’ve heard kids talking positively about her class. Let a teacher know when you’ve noticed a room full of attentive pupils.
Because some Sundays are so hectic, Bolton makes it a habit to mail notes of praise throughout the week. These she often writes in those odd moments; for example, when she’s waiting for an appointment or tied up in traffic.