“Because I’m the mean dad and I said so.”
Turnaround Pastors Do It Different
That’s the “magic response” I stumbled into by accident.

It has this amazing power to stop the unending chain of “Why?” questions emanating from toddlers and small children.

I used it on my children after four or five, “But why, Daddy?” queries when they weren’t asking the great metaphysical “Why?” but were instead just cycling around the same question regardless of what I said.

It came to me in the midst of an exasperating conversation with my oldest daughter. She was three. Not knowing what else to tell her, this just blurted out I could tell by her silence (golden, thank you very much) and satisfied look that I’d struck pay dirt.

I used it on my other children, too. It worked like a charm. Every time.

And guess what? They use it on their own children!

But you can’t do that with churches Pastors can’t pull rank. Like it or not, we’ve got to answer their questions. The ability to do this rests on three traits that distinguish turnaround pastors from their colleagues:

  1. Independence: the ability to withstand disagreement without feeling threatened
  2. Flexibility: the ability to hear needed information from critics and adjust as needed
  3. Assertiveness: the ability to stay firm when called for

Here are two tips for creating dialog, answering questions and creating genuine unity rather than mindless, stifling uniformity.

We (pastors) often make a serious mistake. We don’t give church members ample opportunity to question us, to dig into our thinking and voice their disagreement.

I’m not sure why, but a few possibilities come to mind:

  • We mistake uniformity for unity
  • Disagreement is a source of pain
  • We’re busy with less important stuff
  • Troublemakers and complainers chafe our hides
  • Our conflict avoidance mechanism is out of whack

If you don’t give an opportunity for your church members you’re just closing the relief valve on the pressure cooker. One day that baby’s gonna blow and when it does, there’ll be plenty of collateral damage.

So let me suggest two tips for providing your church’s members ample opportunity to ask questions and express disagreement in healthy, productive ways.

Check your ego at the door

Criticism is a unique opportunity for a pastor to (1) mature further in her relationship with Christ and (2) for him to model what it means to “be confident in Christ.”

Ministers who look to the church to satisfy their needs for love, affirmation and worth shy away from criticism. But if we find those needs fully and exhaustively met in Christ, we’re able to “rise above” criticism. We see ourselves, our critics, the relationship between the two, and the metacommunication.

Looking at the metamessage of the encounter lets the cleric to learn valuable insights to become more effective servants. We’re also in a better place to discern “the issue” at the root of the criticism(s). We hear what we need to hear without the emotional payload.

Create opportunities for frank discussion

Provide ample opportunity for them to speak their minds. Offer an occasional Q&A  session so people can pose pointed questions to the pastor and church board.

Healthy relationships grow deeper when people feel free to disagree yet maintain love and respect. This is important in a family relationship It’s important in a healthy small group It’s mission-critical in a healthy church.



Pastor, how do you give ample opportunity for church members to speak their mind, express disagreement, and keep up genuine unity?

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