What Works For Me in… Dealing With Difficult Members

Ever had trouble with difficult members? If the answer is “no” then you haven’t pastored a church!

What have you found effective and Christlike in these situations? We would like to hear from you in the comments section below.

Michael Temple, Pastor of the Dickinson, North Dakota Seventh-day Adventist District writes (in Best Practices Newsletter- Subscribe at http://visitor.constantcontact.com/email.jsp?m=1101578508634)–

“In a perfect world God’s church would not experience negatively aggressive behavior from its members, but all too often it’s not the exception but the norm.  If you’re a pastor or leader, you know just how frustrating some people can be when they are “acting out” in such destructive ways. 

Our response towards these disruptive behaviors can make an incredible difference. Accountability for words and actions that are demeaning, mean-spirited, or manipulative is not something we need to shy away from. It’s a delicate balance between allowing people to say what’s on their mind, while holding them accountable for negative and unacceptable behavior.

I’ve found something that works for me. It’s a phrase that’s certainly not fool-proof, but I find that it helps me cope and uncover real issues in tense situations. This “cushioned” response helps me stay focused on the issues and not on my feelings. Here it is:

“You must have a very good reason for saying (doing) what you just said (did); may I ask what that reason is?”

This phrase is both probing and problematic for the person you ask it of.  It takes the focus off the behavior and puts it on the person displaying the behavior. He or she must now be accountable for what he or she just said or did.  You have effectively set up an environment that lovingly says, “We won’t allow destructive behavior (verbal or otherwise) in this church family without an honest and probing response to it. We care about you, so help us understand what’s going on.”  

Relational harmony in a congregation is a tall order. Although it’s not a cure-all, this phrase has helped me move in that direction.

You can correspond with Michael at mailto:temples@ndsupernet.com

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