One of the things we’re going to try doing at the new evening meetings is to have a Question and Answer session at the end of the message. We did it last Sunday evening and it seemed to really work. I love the rawness of both hearing what is on people’s hearts and also having to think on my feet – it certainly inspires me to prepare well!
This Sunday one of the questions was “How do you cope when leaders let you down”. This came from a comment I made in the message about leaders only being human and that if we pin our hopes on leaders, rather than on Jesus, there will always be situations where we feel they’ve let us down. Given my awareness of my own failings as a leader, and a desire for us to build a strong biblically functioning community, I thought for the benefit of those not there Sunday night it might be worth repeating a bit of the answer I gave on Sunday night.
First I think it’s important when you feel a leader has done something wrong to always apply the best possible explanation to their actions. Take the scenario of a Sunday morning, where you pass a leader in reception and they just walk past you and ignore you. The worst explanation might be that they don’t like you, they’re not interested in you and they don’t even know or care who you are. The best explanation could be that they’re consumed thinking about what they’ve got to preach in half an hour, they’ve just been called to sort out some admin issue and they didn’t get much sleep last night because one of their children is ill. Our tendency is always to assume the worst which is rarely the case in my experience. Always assume the best until you know better.
Secondly it’s really important not to gossip. The more people you tell the bigger the problem gets. I remember a situation not long after Catrina and I joined the church where Ben Davies made a decision I disagreed with (it was about taking the youth to Alton Towers if you really must know!). Instead of going and talking to Ben I moaned to someone else, which then meant there were two people with a problem. Eventually it got back to Ben that I had an issue with the decision, and in his incredibly gracious way he phoned me so that we could chat about it. We met up and talked through the decision, I apologised for gossiping and it actually built our friendship. But how much better it would have been if I’d just gone straight to Ben rather than involving a load of other people.
Third if you feel you can’t overlook the offence (which is a biblical way of dealing with it – “A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence” Proverbs 19:11) then go and speak to the leader directly. I’d much rather somebody came and spoke to me about an issue than have it fester with them. And I’d always encourage face to face conversations. With a letter, an email or even on the phone it’s impossible to read the emotions behind words and it can often lead to conflicts getting bigger rather than being resolved. I have to admit that I’ve received some emails which have left me feeling down and a failure for the best part of a week (and in a real grump with everyone around me). Then when I’ve chatted to the person who sent me the email, often the following Sunday, I find that they haven’t even thought about the issue again and they don’t feel there’s anything to sort. I’m probably just overly sensitive, and it hasn’t happened often, but often enough that Lydia (my PA) now reads all my emails and letters before I do!
Finally if that doesn’t work Matthew 18 gives a whole process for where to go next and how to seek resolution.
What I’ve said applies to all of our relationships and friendships. People will always let us down, the question is how we deal with it when that happens. Let’s aim to build a community based on honest, open relationships where we seek to resolve things as quickly as possible.
Hope that was helpful,