Good Communication is Key 

A Common Pitfall

Good communication is key to avoiding unnecessary conflict.

Senior Pastor Ed shared that the main issue driving him into burnout was managing staff and the conflict with them. As Ed is human it was easy for him to see the faults in his staff, but since he was the one at Marble Retreat for counseling we needed to focus and work on his part in the staff issues. After having him tell a few accounts of how meetings that he led went down a few problems became obvious. Ed was so stressed out that he quickly downloaded on staff the next idea or agenda and gave little to no time for feedback. When he did get feedback, he often responded defensively. Pastor Ed had many plates he was spinning so he did not make himself accessible to staff.

Chief Cause of Conflict

Conflict is one of the leading causes of why pastors leave ministry. In my experience of working with pastors often the conflict originated with some sort of poor communication. The reasons, as in Pastor Ed’s case, can be personal and situational of why poor communication was happening. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” Ed, fell into the trap, that many of us do, of believing that because he had shared his ideas and directives then communication has occurred. Unfortunately, like many other patterns in an organization, bad communication can become the norm, setting the stage for frustration and conflict.

Some Possible Steps

A few ideas for leaders:

  • Giving time to good communication (allowing feedback, being available) is worth your time.
  • Choose a communication tool or program for organizations and use it.
  • If you deliver a message poorly or receive feedback negatively, figure out what is driving your reaction. Are you rushed? Forcing the issue? Why? What is the personal message you are hearing about yourself? Your idea?
  • Have someone you trust sit in on a meeting and give you feedback.

Well Worth It

Senior pastors share that one of the most exhausting and sometimes painful parts of their job is when staff leave and they need to hire someone else. Often staff leave because of conflict which is coming from ineffective communication. Investing the time and effort to grow in your communication with staff will be well worth it in the long run.

Ken Sande, who specializes in church conflict recently wrote this great article on conflict with leadership.  Check it out here: Conflict in the Church