How To Deliver Bad News To Your Church, Part I


We all love to deliver good news – a successful event, a budget overage, finishing a building project early and under budget, or a ministry initiative that exceeded expectations.

But what do you do when you need to deliver bad news to your church?

Whether you're the senior pastor or in senior leadership, it is inevitable that at some point, you will have to deliver bad news to your church – you aren’t making budget and need to cut programs, a key leader is removed from leadership suddenly, financing for the building program has fallen through, or a scandal or moral failure involving staff or senior leader.

The question is not if you will go through difficulties but when. The test is not if you'll have tocommunicate that challenge to your congregation but how. How you handle and communicate it can and will set the course for your church not only through that difficult season, but can set the course for a healthy future.

Here are some simple steps that can help you deliver bad news in a way that can lead to growth.

1. Have a plan in place before a crisis happens.

Because we live in a fallen world and work among fallen people, it’s best to assume that at some point, your church will face a crisis. Determine in advance how your church will handle delivering whatever hard news may come your way. 

• Who are the key decision makers that need to be involved in identifying the key issues and designing the communication strategy?
• Who will be the point person for developing the response and messaging? What happens if that person is the source of the crisis?
• What methods will you use to communicate? When will you communicate the information and who needs to be informed about the changes in the service?

2. Be direct.

Treat people like mature adults. Leaders often get tempted to try and "protect" the congregation from too much information. In doing so, they usually create more questions, more controversy, and more division. It's best to be direct and honest. Your church members will feel respected and in turn will give you more trust when they know you are being transparent. Tell them what happened, what is being done about it, and how your leadership is handling it going forward. We are not suggesting you need to share every detail, but we are saying you should share as much is necessary to provide direction and clarity about the situation and what is being done to deal with it in a healthy, God-honoring, and redemptive way.

3. Be prepared.

When communicating to the congregation, don't give into the temptation to "wing it." We’ve seen pastors and leaders who are accustomed to speaking publicly rely on their experience to communicate difficult information, and we’ve also seen those same pastors completely botch the delivery. When you are not prepared, you usually take longer than you intended, share more than you intended, and create more questions than you intended.

Prepare a carefully worded statement. Make sure you deliver enough information to be clear but not so much information that you raise more questions, inspire gossip, or hinder your process of recovery going forward. Have others in senior leadership review it. Get a consensus. Read it. Read it again. Then read it again. When it's time to deliver the message on stage, you'll be prepared to deliver the message in a way that makes sense and clearly delivers your point. You will also know the key points of what you arecommunicating well enough to be conversational and confident.

Stay tuned for steps 4-7 on how to deliever bad news to your church in a few days.

What are some tips you have for church leaders how have to deliver bad news to their church?