When Church People Attack

16 Feb

A few weeks ago we had an incident where a volunteer expressed great frustration in an intense and disproportionate way to my awesome, sent-from-heaven interim preschool coordinator.  I hated that she had to see this side of ministry so fresh on the job, but she handled it absolutely like a pro.  It did get me thinking about how we handle conflict situations like this, whether it is the angry parent, the frustrated volunteer, the random church member, or whoever decides to fly off the handle at any given time.

Here are the things my friend did that were top-notch:

1.  She didn’t react back.  She remained polite, calm, and collected, even though she very upset by the way she was approached.

2.  She refused to engage the person in the environment where they were surrounded by kids and other volunteers.  Her number one concern was this situation not upset the children.  She calmly replied that she would be glad to discuss the situation, but not in front of others, especially the children.

3.  She came to me, her supervisor, immediately. I  don’t like surprises and I am glad she found me before the other volunteer did.  I was able to handle it from there.

The situation also reminded me of a few other things about church people conflict:

James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  Enough said.

–  When people are disproportionately upset, generally there are deeper things going on in their worlds. Because of this, it is wise to not respond immediately.

–  When given time, even a few minutes, to cool off people can usually discuss a situation with a more level head. They might even eventually apologize.

–  It is important to address the issue at hand, but our job as ministers requires us to care for the person enough to try to find out what really has them upset.

–  Evaluate what truth you can glean from the situation.  There may be something you do need to fix or make better.  Don’t entirely disregard that because of the person’s approach.

–  Conflict has to be addressed.  Just pretending nothing is wrong or hoping it all goes way is unhealthy.

–  Always keep your supervisor aware of attacking volunteers. If your answers don’t satisfy them, they will go up!

Do you have a good “when church people attack” story?  What tips do you have for handling situations like this?

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3 Responses to “When Church People Attack”

  1. AmyFentonLee February 16, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    Awesome post! I need to print and laminate this and keep it with me at all times…as I am NOT slow to anger.

  2. jonathan February 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    I always tell my team. “Let Kindness be our only response.”

    This is always our theme when heading into the weekend!

    • Jenny Funderburke February 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      Jonathan,
      I love that! And may just have to steal it… kindly of course. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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