As much fun as ministry is and can be there always is a time in which you need to confront a student with life choices they are making or they are being disruptive in service. 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 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 to the situation than their was before you entered into the situation. Hence, the importance of handling conflict well.
I have had quite a few times where I have needed to confront and I thought I would write down some practical tips in doing so, and doing so well that is beneficial to both parties:
- Pray before- Seems obvious but if I do forget to one thing the most, it’s this one. It’s so easily overlooked but it really is the most important. There is nothing better than going into what can be a very difficult conversation than going in knowing that you went before the King and gave Him the situation before you even began with the student. I pray that He gives me the correct words to say in ministering to the student and discernment when counseling them.
- Be up front- There is no use to 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 but it 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. The other week a had a student sit all the way in the back of the room when their was plenty of seats closer. We had the entire back blocked off and I went over and kindly asked him if he would be willing to move up to join us. With a rude response back that took me off-guard I asked him again to come up just to the last row of the blocked off area at least. More disrespect back, yelling back at me at this point about how he did not want to be there and didn’t know anyone and to leave him alone. I didn’t. Instead, I took a breath, sat down next to him, eye level, calmly said, “Have you ever thought the reason why you don’t know anyone is because you sit all the way back here? If you want to know people, I know almost everyone here, I will literally walk around and introduce you to everyone we come in contact with. Then you will be the most popular guy here. Even more popular than me. I’m not trying to be “that guy” to make you do something but I’m just asking you to move up a few rows so you’re not the only one back here.” With a different attitude, he said, “My name is Even” shook my hand and moved up. And after service we went around meeting people. It was awesome.
- Point Them To Jesus- Overall, you are to point them to Jesus. As ministers that is what we are supposed to do. We need to use these times of confrontation as teaching and learning for our students and for us as pastors as well. If we can leave the conversation with the students leaning on Jesus more, than it is a success.
What else would you put? Add to the list?