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Speak Up!

Sophia Winter

If your senior pastor, team members, or parents just don't seem to hear what you're saying, listen up...

I recall one of the more embarrassing and unpleasant experiences I've had in ministry--all based on a communication gaffe. I sent off several rapid-fire emails to a volunteer I was working with on my church staff as I attempted to wrap up an important project. From my standpoint, I simply aimed to deliver a strong final product, so I didn't spend time wordsmithing my emails. But what I didn't realize was that the volunteer felt I was questioning his abilities and commitment to the project.

What ensued was a lot of unnecessary conflict. In retrospect, I saw that the divide between us was largely due to the differences in our communication styles. That situation gave me pause to consider how even subtle missteps in communication can have far-reaching effects in ministry.

One of the most difficult--and most important--lessons for any of us is the impact our communication choices have on all our human interactions. In ministry, those communication choices can have a long-lasting impact, possibly even eternal ones. If you've ever felt discounted after you thought you'd communicated clearly or wondered why you can't seem to effectively resolve an issue without alienating others, you may be making communication missteps.

So whether you're meeting with parents, speaking with leaders, addressing staff members, or even asking for a raise, learn from these practical pointers to be an effective communicator when it matters most.

Assess Your Motives

Always evaluate your intentions before you approach the person. To assess whether you have good motives in setting up the conversation, ask yourself these questions.

• What's my main reason for having this conversation? If you don't know, how will you gauge the effectiveness of the encounter?

• What's my expected or desired outcome? Reflect in prayer on whether you're taking any negative feelings into the meeting, and deal with those issues before you bring someone into a conversation.

• Am I looking for outcomes or simply venting? Determine this before the meeting-not while you're in the midst of it. And consider postponing the conversation if your goal is nothing more than venting--it's always best to go in seeking solutions.

Pastor Joel Osteen is fond of saying, "You can't unscramble eggs, so be careful before you stir things up." How true that statement is. If you can answer each of the above questions, you'll have a personal check of your attitude and position before you engage someone in a serious discussion.

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