As much fun as ministry is and can be, there is always a time when you need to confront a student or leader. A leader has serious issues with life choices that are not setting a good example for students. A student has been disrupting the service or causing conflict in the group.
Let’s be honest: no one loves confrontation. It can be very hard at times. Even though it’s tough it is important in ministry to handle conflict with students and leaders well. A confrontation handled well can help launch them into the next level of personal growth in life and with Jesus. A confrontation handled badly can cause way more damage than there was before you entered the situation.
So what do you do?
- Pray before – This seems obvious, but if I forget one thing the most, it’s this one. It’s so easily overlooked, but it really is the most important. When you’re going into what can be a very difficult conversation, there is nothing better than going in knowing that you went before the King and gave Him the situation before you even began with the student or leader. I pray that He gives me the correct words to say in ministering to them. I pray He gives me discernment when counseling them.
- Ask – Ask yourself, “Does this even need to be brought up? Does it need to be handled right now? Am I thinking about this too much? Does it really matter?” Going through some of these things can help you process what is about to happen.
- Be up-front – There is no point in dancing around the situation. I would always try to “warm them up” before actually getting to the meat. As soon as they sit down, I lovingly let them know that I want to talk about something that can be hard to hear. I tell them it’s important because I love and care for them. Then I go into it.
- Be on their side – Confrontation is exactly that when two people are going head to head. If you can’t confront someone with love and with a positive end in mind for them (redemption, restoration, growth), you shouldn’t be confronting them in the first place. Remind them of this as well — that you’re on their side and that you want to see this issue resolved in a way that everyone learns and grows through it.
- Go in private – Go in private according to Matthew 18:15. A one-on-one conversation. If you cannot overlook the issue, then attempt to resolve the conflict or misunderstanding by applying God’s principle of going one-on-one whenever possible. There is no benefit in calling them out in front of their friends after service or small group about something they have been doing (finish reading Matthew 18 if one-on-one doesn’t get through).
- When it gets heated, slow down – When things get heated it can be really easy to get revved up with them. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and just go for it. Slow down. Get collected. Take a few breaths and think about what happened. The art of holding your tongue is hard and the art of confrontation with a calm demeanor is harder. The art of slowing yourself down before speaking (and avoiding an explosion) will always be beneficial.
- Point Them To Jesus – Overall, you are to point them to Jesus. That is what ministers are supposed to do. We need to use these times of confrontation as teaching opportunities for our students and leaders. They are learning moments for us as pastors as well. If we can leave the conversation with the students leaning on Jesus more, it’s a success.
What else would you add to the list?