The most important things in church life have a high degree of sensitivity to them. Feelings can get hurt easily. Relationships can get broken. Hard conversations are exactly that…hard. Many hard conversations go unsaid because it isn’t worth the cost.
How do we have the difficult conversations even though there may be fallout? At the heart of all of this is the key – vulnerability…Our capacity to receive the truth and keep in the conversation.
First, we pray and ask God if this is a conversation He wants us to have. Too often pride and other blind spots can get in the way of us truly seeing the situation (and our role in it) accurately. There are some conversations that we don’t need to have. Maybe they are a distraction or maybe there is something else more important to discuss and work on.
Second, assess our place in the problem or issue at hand. We may bear more responsibility for the issue than we first would be willing or able to admit. There have been times in ministry I was completely blind to my part of the problem or even that I was the cause of the problem. Some of these instances were not obvious until much later.
Third, be willing to accept push back without being defensive. Defensiveness, while natural and understandable, can get in the way of progress and reconciliation. If we have pushback it may be because we didn’t thoroughly work through the first two items. Or it may be there was more to the situation than we realized…so take a moment to listen and learn in order to find a path ahead rather than get bogged down in defensive posturing to save face.
Fourth, be open, receptive and anticipatory of the Holy Spirit’s work. Allow the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of the Spirit in you before, during and after the conversation. The Spirit is our unifier and part of creating unity is using the fruit of the Spirit to mend broken relationships and ease difficult conversations to make them more manageable.
Fifth, understand that a favorable outcome may take several tries. You can’t always get it all done the first time. The first conversation may be a learning conversation that preps resolution the second or third time around. Be realistic about the pace of a positive outcome. That allows you to not push for resolution when it isn’t truly resolved. The problem took time to develop, resolution will as well.
Sixth, work through the issue with others with integrity. Be honest. Do what is right. Have no regrets.
Even after all of this there is no guarantee that anything got fixed but at least you can know that you did your best to allow God to do His best.