3 Things Church Leaders Need To Do Before Confronting Someone


Having uncomfortable conversations is part of being a leader. If you are a leader and don’t have uncomfortable conversations on a regular basis, then you’re probably avoiding them. 

Tough conversations are healthy for a church staff or ministry organization, and leaders should always be thinking about how they can confront situations with both truth and grace.

Here are three things you should do before you confront someone.

1. Sleep on it. 

Have you ever overreacted to a situation in the heat of the moment only to realize that it wasn’t as big of a deal the next day? I’m notorious for this.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten consists of three words: Sleep on it. 

Many leaders want to confront an issue head on without giving it time to settle first (myself included!). This can be a strength in leadership, especially when the behavior or situation you’re confronting is toxic, but sometimes leaders can waste a lot of time overreacting to issues that a good night’s sleep can help resolve.

Leadership is more art than science.Tweet: Leadership is more art than science. http://bit.ly/1YuGlHg via @VanderbloemenSG

It requires discernment to know when it’s time to confront quickly or let the dust settle first. Personally, I’m finding that if I take a moment to breathe and get a good night’s sleep, the issue is much less daunting the next morning. A good night’s sleep can take a confrontation from a heated, emotional accusation to a casual, understanding conversation.

2. Consider the person’s communication style.

Do you know the communication preferences of your team? If not, I highly recommend your team consider the Insights assessment, or similar personality assessment tool, which our team has found extremely helpful in communicating effectively.

For example, my colleague Katie and I work very closely on our church resources and content development. Because our strengths complement each other, we make a great team, but this also means that we communicate differently. I prefer to externally process and have brainstorming meetings. Katie prefers to internally process and bring a plan to a meeting. For us to both bring our best to a project, we need to allow both of us time to effectively process and plan.

If Katie and I didn’t openly consider each other’s communication preferences, then we could get frustrated with each other and wouldn’t understand why. In fact, in my experience, the most common reason I see people leave their job is because of communication conflicts on their staff. As a church leader, be intentional about understanding your church staff team’s communication style and empower them to be able to communicate most effectively with everyone on your team.

Everyone on our team has their “Insights Blocks” displayed on their desk so we can know how to approach each other. Dave Ramsey’s team displays everyone’s DISC results on their desk as a constant reminder for how people prefer to communicate.

If you’re interested in taking your team through Insights, contact us for more information. Bob Sutton, our Director of Candidate Relations, is certified in Insights and would love the opportunity to help take your team to the next level.

3. Write down your conversations before they happen.

In How To Wow, Frances Cole talks about the power of writing down something you anticipate to happen before it does. For example, many of us feel anxious before a big meeting or presentation. Cole suggests journaling about what you want to happen before the big meeting. This allows your mind to think through contingency plans and face the “what ifs” before they’re reality. 

If you’re feeling anxious about a confrontational conversation, write down what you want to say to the person. Make a list of the things you might anticipate the other person to say and how you want to respond. Read over it. Are you getting to the root of the issue? Are you basing your thoughts on facts or assumptions?

It might sound funny, but I’ve actually tried this before and found it very helpful. What I realized is that it helped me think through the possibilities of where the conversation might go and how I wanted to respond based on the direction of the conversation. I wasn’t bothered when something frustrating or disappointing happened because I had already written about how I would respond. So in the moment, I responded in the way that I planned.

If you’re a leader developing younger leaders around you, help them confront people with truth and grace. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your team. I see far too many leaders confront people on behalf of their team instead of empowering them to have the conversation themselves. I’m grateful for the difficult conversations my mentors encouraged me to have. They weren’t easy, but I grew through them.

What advice do you have for effectively confronting others with truth and grace?

If you liked this, you'll also enjoy The Key To Handling Conflict On Your Church Leadership Team 

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