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Turning Naysayers Into Allies: How Successful Leaders Do It


Inevitably, somebody isn’t going to agree with your decisions. If you’re a leader, you’ll make lots and lots of decisions. Some will be easy, while others will be quite challenging. Ironically, in both cases, there will be naysayers.

The easiest way to handle these people is to free up their future by inviting them to leave.

I say that with a healthy dose of sarcasm, knowing I’ve wanted to do exactly that dozens of times—maybe hundreds.

Play this option out a bit, and you quickly realize you’ve invited almost everyone to leave, leaving you without anyone. Of course, this also leaves you without anyone to naysay, but regardless, this is a terrible solution.

Let me suggest another option. But first, a quick example from my leadership life.

Pushing Back on a Volunteer Change

At Woodstock City Church, where I served for 13 years as lead pastor, we had many volunteers. For a long time, we had an “agreement” for volunteers working with children, students, and as adult small group leaders. This agreement was important as it clearly stated our expectations for the roles. It included things like social media expectations, substance abuse, lifestyle stuff, etc.

The most challenging expectation was for couples living together. We didn’t allow these individuals to serve in the aforementioned areas. 

Yet in children’s and student ministry, we had many volunteer roles that weren’t spiritual leadership roles—things like greeting new families, checking children in, and such. With this in mind, we decided to rethink our volunteer agreement, delineating between “leadership” and “volunteering.” Leadership roles were spiritual oversight, while volunteer roles were more guest services or production-related.

Before implementing this, we announced the pending change to our current volunteers. There were certainly some questions, but most people understood why we were making this change. However, not everyone was on board.

We had some skeptics, and I understood their concerns. Yet I didn’t believe their concerns were significant enough to warrant keeping people from “volunteering.” Serving is an integral part of growing in our faith. Opening up opportunities for people to serve while holding to our theological convictions was important.

I met with several of the most outspoken cynics. But rather than work to convince them they were wrong or afraid for nothing, I took a different tact. One that you should consider.