Hard conversations can be challenging. They are never fun. And truthfully most of us would rather not have to have any hard conversations. However, sometimes they are necessary. Maybe there is a Small Group leader who is teaching something contrary to the church’s core values. Or maybe a Small Group member is using their group for a personal counselling session. Or a Small Group leader is refusing to follow the curriculum plan for groups. Or there are a thousand other situations. In order to lead well, there are simply times we must have a hard conversation.
Here are four tips for having a hard conversation.
- Pray first – Spend some time with Jesus examining your own heart and motives to make sure you are approaching the situation with humility and wisdom. It is vital to do some plank removal so you can think clearly when having a hard conversation.
“First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)
- Don’t wait too long – Many times I find myself wanting to put off a hard conversation. This can be a result of trying to maintain peace and hoping the problem will go away. It won’t! Hard conversations do not resolve on their own and only get worse with time. The longer you wait the harder the conversation is to have.
- Focus on behavior and actions not motivation – It can be tempting to think that someone is being difficult just to be difficult. However, this is not true in most cases. Everyone’s actions are motivated by what they think is the right thing to do. No one thinks to themselves, “Based on my experience I should do option A, so I am going to do option B.” Focusing on behavior and actions and not motivation allows us to have a hard conversation that actually deepens the relationship.
- Don’t sandwich, but finish with dessert – Lots of leaders have been taught the sandwich method of criticism. Start with a positive, then address the problem, then finish with a positive. I have found this method only leads to confusion. Starting a hard conversation with “we need to talk about something” and then getting straight to the point makes sure the other person understands that there is something that needs to change. After addressing the issue and developing action steps, reaffirming the relationship and their value is needed.
Sometimes being a leader is difficult, but if you take the time to prepare, hard conversations can improve the effectiveness of your ministry and your relationships with your Small Group leaders.