How to “speak the truth in love” when you’d rather run the other way.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone just got along, no one ever got mad, and children and adults did exactly what you wanted? Well, dream on.
It’s not a perfect world, and as a leader in an imperfect world you sometimes have to say hard things to people. How do you do that?
To help you “speak the truth in love,” Children’s Ministry Magazine identified eight of the toughest situations face. Then we asked top ministry leaders — Carmen Kamrath, Debi Nixon, and Larry Shallenberger — to give us expert tips in dealing with each issue.
Keep in mind that the goal of saying any hard thing is to leave the person you’re talking with “whole” after the conversation. No matter what the situation, the people you’re talking with are your sisters and brothers in Christ. Treat them with God’s love and gentleness.
It’s important before speaking in any difficult situation that you first commit yourself to prayer and continue praying as you seek God’s guidance. Always schedule time to meet privately with the person either at the church or a coffee shop.
1. Firing a Volunteer
Ideally, every volunteer in your ministry is perfectly matched according to gifts and passions. That’s ideal. The truth is that sometimes, even with the best intentions, some people don’t fit…and need to be asked to leave a ministry. Experts recommend that you have some kind of evaluation system in place ahead of time so volunteers know where they’re at and a “firing” doesn’t come as a big surprise.
What to Say
- Listen actively and gather information. Listen for places of frustration you can use to back up why this isn’t a good fit for this volunteer. Listen for places of great joy to help you suggest a better ministry position.
- Confidently, but with gentleness, share your observations and the need for a change.
- Ask how you can best support and care for the person during this transition time. It’s important to help the volunteer move on with dignity.
- You may want to assume some of the blame for allowing the person to be in a place that didn’t match his or her gifts. It’s possible you didn’t provide the adequate support, training, or job-description clarity.
What NOT to Say
- Don’t share information directly with the volunteer that’s hearsay. It’s important that you strive to share your actual observations. It may be possible that the only information you have is what has been shared to you by a third party. If that’s the case, allow time for the volunteer to present his or her perspective.
- Don’t belittle, condescend, or attack the volunteer.