Posts Tagged ‘how to disagree with a pastor’

Even though the event happened thirty years ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday.

I was in my second pastorate.

As a young pastor, I was trying to put a new twist on some old practices … so one Sunday morning, I did communion differently.

I substituted pita bread for those small wafers, and used Styrofoam cups instead of the tiny plastic ones.

In my mind, it was just an experiment.

After the service, many people told me how much they enjoyed communion … especially the young couples.

As I recall, nobody voiced any objections … until the following Sunday.

At 10:55 that morning … five minutes before the service began … I stepped into the men’s room.  The church’s 77-year-old songleader joined me.

While standing where men momentarily stand, the songleader told me:

“I didn’t like the way communion was done last Sunday.”

I replied, “Well, many people told me how much they enjoyed doing communion differently.”

When I asked him why some didn’t like it, he responded, “Too unsanitary.”

And then he added, “And many people agree with me.”

I asked him, “How many?”  He replied, “Five.”

I then asked, “What are their names?”

He replied, “I’m not telling you that.”

My well-meaning friend … who has long since gone to be with Jesus … could have handled the situation much better.

In fact, let me share with you three tips for disagreeing with a pastor:

First, never confront a pastor right before or right after a worship service.

My friend had one full week to discuss his feelings with me.

He could have called me on the phone or set up an appointment.

Had he shared his concerns during the week, we could have had a relaxed discussion.

But right before a service, pastors are intensely focused on their message.  Their entire week culminates with their sermon.

Because pastors are usually sensitive individuals, one stray comment can negatively impact their feelings and thus their sermon, impacting an entire congregation.

After a pastor preaches, he’s drained … especially if he has to speak more than once.

Although pastors work hard to be gracious after they preach, they’ve emptied themselves spiritually and emotionally … and if people criticize him, his reactions can be unpredictable.

It’s far better to write the pastor an email on Monday or give him a call during the week … but let him go before and after he speaks.

Second, choose an optimal setting for dialogue.

I can’t speak for women, but men don’t have substantive conversations in a restroom.

The pastor’s study might be a good place for a discussion … or a restaurant … but not a place where men tend to get in and then get out.

I realize that some people see their pastor on a Sunday and think, “Oh, I meant to call him this past week, but he’s right there, so I’ll talk to him now.”

But the heavier the issue, the more time it requires … and the church patio is not the optimal place for discussion.

It’s better to say to the pastor, “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you this next week.  When would be the best time to talk?”

Then let the pastor tell you how to approach him … and I guarantee he’ll listen better.

Third, always speak for yourself when you have a disagreement.

My friend thought that if he told me that others agreed with him, it would add weight to his argument, but it had the opposite effect.

Because if you don’t tell me who you represent, I can’t verify the truthfulness of your claim.

All he needed to say was, “I didn’t like the way you did communion last week.”  Now the two of us can dialogue one-on-one.

But when you bring phantom individuals into the room … and you won’t tell me their names … what am I supposed to say?

“You’re right … I’ll never do that again?”

After that encounter, I learned to make an additional statement to anyone who called upon phantom witnesses:

“Please tell anyone who is upset to speak with me personally.  If they do, I promise to listen.  If they don’t, then I will assume the issue isn’t that important.”

Over the years, know how many phantom witnesses later came to me?

That’s right … not one.

That should tell you something.

Pastors are not popes or angels.  They make mistakes … and it’s all right to discuss their mistakes with them.

Just avoid sermon time, bathrooms, and phantom witnesses.









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