Hard Conversations

by Emily Meredith

I guess God must be trying to teach me something, because it seems as though lately I’ve had to have more than one hard conversation with a volunteer. This isn’t easy for me. I suppose it’s not super easy for anyone. But as a person whose “need to please” meter is off the chart, it can be especially difficult for me.

Here are a few things I’ve learned the hard way to help make these conversations a little easier.

1. Always meet face-to-face.
You can certainly follow up over email for clarification, but meeting face-to-face initially is always best. No one can read your tone or know your true heart in an email.

2. Pray for wisdom before you meet.
It’s important to recognize that while you are the leader of your ministry area, God is truly the one in control of what happens in it. I have been reminded again and again, when I think I have a certain situation all figured out, that God is really the one who knows all and sees all. And these truths are only revealed when I spend time asking Him for wisdom.

3. Always extend grace first.
Believe the best first. Listen to the other person’s side of things before you rush to judge or make a decision.

4. Once you’ve met and you’re ready to make a decision, ask yourself the following questions:
What is the best thing, beyond volunteering, for this person in this particular situation? Maybe it’s to take a break from serving to seek help or have more margin with family. Maybe it’s some kind of accountability while continuing to serve.

What is the best thing for the ministry as a whole? It is our responsibility to the best of our ability to place healthy leaders in the lives of kids. No volunteer will be perfect. But sometimes it’s necessary for them and for the ministry for that volunteer to take a break from serving.

Sometimes hard conversations happen because a volunteer is upset about something. Here are a few things I have to keep in mind when that happens.

  • Listen first.
  • Sift through the complaint for the truth of the situation.
  • Fix what you can. And lead through what you can’t.
  • Apologize when you’re in the wrong.
  • Move on. You will disappoint people. It’s just a reality. Learn from EVERY situation and try to handle things differently next time. You’ll be a better leader for it.

The truth is, you really can’t take the hard out of a hard conversation. Even if you avoid it, the problem will still be there. The best you can do is tackle the conversation head-on and trust God’s guidance along the way.

What have you learned when it comes to having hard conversations?

Emily Meredith has served as the children’s director at Buckhead Church since 2003. Prior to her current role, she served as minister to preschool and children at the Church on Rush Creek for over four years in Arlington, Texas. A native Texan, and proud of it, Emily lives in Atlanta with her husband, Gary, and their two boys, Sam and Charlie.