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Handling Heated Conversations

by Bob D’Ambrosio


Have you been at any hot church meetings lately? And I’m not talking about the HVAC system. Ministry teams can generate conflict that’s often hard to defuse. Wouldn’t it be great if we could cool things off before they get out of hand?

Use these tips to avoid heated conversations at your next ministry meeting.

Be proactive instead of reactive. It’s easier to prevent a fire than to put one out! Coach your team on these tips to pre-empt future heated discussions. Many ministry teams have a covenant that outlines specific behaviors, expectations, and rules of order. If you don’t have a covenant, now may be a good time to develop one.

Listen. Teach your team members to practice active listening. Everyone needs to listen to both sides of an issue before deciding what actions to take. Equip your team to actively listen to others.

Think before you speak. James 1:19 says everyone should “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” My mom used to tell me to count to 10 before reacting. Not bad advice. Often conflict accelerates because we blurt out something without giving it rational thought. Advise team members to reflect on their thoughts before they become part of your meeting minutes.

Don’t jump to conclusions. If your cat comes home with feathers sticking from his mouth, you can probably conclude he just caught a bird. Let’s give our team members more credit. Don’t assume that someone is pushing a hidden agenda unless you know the facts. Hold decisions until you have enough information to draw the right conclusion.

Look for common ground. Remember that you and your team are in ministry for a common mission and purpose. Pull together what everyone agrees on, and work from that point to resolve the specific differences. A wise leader once said, “A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.”

Use “I” statements. Always frame feedback with a statement that communicates how you are affected, or interpret the situation. Instead of saying, “You need to change that policy,” use an indirect message such as “I feel this policy might make people feel unappreciated. I’d like to share some thoughts that I’ve found helpful.”

Admit your mistakes. If you’re wrong, admit it. Servant leaders demonstrate humility—and ask for forgiveness.

Pray continuously. Most church teams only give the obligatory opening, and sometimes closing, prayer. When things get tense, stop the meeting and pray at that moment. Prayer helps us focus on the One who equips us to serve.

Share these suggestions with the ministry teams at your church. It may help cool down the summer!

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Handling Heated Conversations

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