Do Hard Conversations Promote Growth?
Not always. But avoiding them usually hinders growth.
In church business, we are called to steward and to lead. The stewardship side of our role is to manage the church’s assets like our own. Stewardship requires that we do what is right regardless of the resistance to a decision. The leadership side of our role means we advocate for doing what is sound and wise regardless of the popularity. Anytime you’re in a leadership role, you’ll be faced with having hard conversations. As many of us know, there might be friction. It may be something we don’t want to do, but we are called to make the tough decisions and have these discussions.
Here’s a key principle to always remember: Friction is a by-product of movement. Without friction, there is no movement.
As the church begins making strides towards growth and change, you may be met with friction. Friction can be disguised as many names but more often than not, it’s labeled as conflict. Conflict isn’t something to be avoided, but should be dealt with quickly and directly. Avoiding conflict can be a luxury we award ourselves at the cost of progress and stewardship. Conflict is an opportunity to grow and learn, not something to shy away from.
I’m reminded of a time when I was working with a fellow pastor, helping him through a series of changes within his church. One day, after the Sunday service, we stood talking and I noticed a dilapidated building that needed to be torn down. The pastor decided to get a quote from a contractor in the congregation to destroy the old building. The amount was five digits long and much too expensive for what needed to be done. Ultimately, we went with another company but not before the pastor had to have a hard conversation with the member of his congregation.
The pastor dreaded the potential conflict, but the contractor ended up being very understanding and helped the church choose the right company for the job. In the end, the best possible conclusion was achieved and the church was able to continue forward.
The question most of us face is: How do you go about having these conversations without feeling awkward and tense?
Here are 3 tips to remember when it’s time to broach a tough subject:
- You’re on the same side— allow the person space to process and ask questions. Approaching the situation as two people on the same side rather than on opposing sides will help you both talk through the issue and grow from it.
- Be Assertive—it won’t help either of you if you’re not willing to be straightforward. There’s a difference between being forthcoming and honest and just being blunt or rude. But someone has to be the first to acknowledge the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
- Seek a Solution–No matter how hard the conversation is, it’s vitally important to edify the other person as you talk about the topic at hand. Lowering walls and coming to someone in humility will help alleviate any pressure they feel. Work towards an outcome that’s honoring to both parties involved.
We often do somersaults when dealing with church business to ensure that no one is offended. If there is no conflict in your ministry, you probably aren’t doing much. Having sound business people around you to help you have these conversations is a great way to add checks and balance to your system. They can advise on best practices and can be a sounding board to bounce effective ideas off of.
As you consider the various business dealings within your church, is there a hard conversation you’ve been avoiding?