How to Handle Difficult Situations with Your Team

How to Handle Difficult Situations with Your Team

We’ve all had them.  You know . . .

The Awkward Moment.
The Sticky Position.
The Difficult Situation.

If you haven’t, then you just haven’t been in ministry long enough.  Trust me, they are on their way.

Why?  Because anytime you deal with people, things have the potential to get weird.
(Can I get an amen?)

You might be a little confused, so let me give you a few real life examples that I’ve gathered from my friends in ministry:

  • The 55 yr-old band member who doesn’t want to follow the 23 yr-old leader.
  • The female worship leader who doesn’t realize her shirt is see-through.
  • The teammate who’s your friend but sucks at an aspect of their job.
  • The sub-par vocalist who wants to know why he isn’t getting “solos.”
  • The senior pastor who hates on all of your ideas.

If you’re like me, just thinking about these situations probably have your skin crawling.  Doing ministry is about working with people, which means that awkward moments are on the way.

This begs the question: How do we deal with these situations?

Some situations require direct confrontation, others require a delicate touch.  Oftentimes, if we’re honest, we don’t really want to deal with the situation.  We’d rather avoid it than experience the stickiness of the circumstances of the issue.

However, avoiding uncomfortable situations ALWAYS makes things worse.

The root of this problem is simple: conflict.  Either we aren’t good at doing conflict well or we want to avoid it at all costs.  The thing is, conflict is essential for healthy community and growth to occur.  This is true in relationships, organizations, and, yes, even churches.

In Bill Hybel’s book, Axioms (which is a MUST HAVE on every leader’s bookshelf), he talks about a concept he calls the Tunnel of Chaos.  Hybels defines the Tunnel of Chaos as the way you get from “Pseudo Community” to “True Community.”

Pseudo Community are relationships that are surface level, and definitely not willing to engage in conflict for the benefit of each other.  Basically, this is when people are faking it or ignoring the obvious issues in order to “keep the peace.”  This is no way to live or lead a ministry.

True Community are relationships that are marked by humble honesty and compassion-fed conversations.  They engage in healthy conflict in order to develop their relationships and deepen their trust with one another.

In order for us to move from Pseudo Community to True Community, we must be willing to walk through the Tunnel of Chaos, together.

This is a great concept, but how can we work this into our relationships today?  Here are three tips to help you deal with those tough situations and to walk through the Tunnel of Chaos successfully.

1. Be humble.

No matter the circumstances, if you enter a discussion humbly, you’re far more likely to be truly heard and understood. Humility is disarming and breeds healthy conversations.

Notice I didn’t say “be weak” or “be passive.”  Humility has nothing to do with either of these things. Somehow, we’ve come to connote humility with an innate weakness, when it is really the mark of a strong leader.

Even if you’re 100% right in the situation, you will NEVER regret being humble as a leader.  Lead as you intend others to react, and you’ll be surprised with the results.

2. Be honest.

Once you start to go through the Tunnel of Chaos with someone, it doesn’t do any good to be anything less than completely honest.  Speaking half truths to try and save someone’s feels seems like a compassionate choice, but you’re actually doing much more harm.

Again, being honest doesn’t mean be an A-hole.  It is possible to share your opinions and thoughts with someone and not come off as harsh.  Hear this: HOW you say WHAT you say is just as important, if not more, as WHAT you say.  In conflict, ALWAYS speak the COMPLETE truth, but in love.

An unwillingness to be completely honest with someone is actually born out of cowardice.  Don’t compromise your opportunity to move towards true community with someone just because you’re scared of the outcome.  The risk is always worth the growth.

3. Seek understanding.

A wise man told me once: In an argument, seek to understand before you seek to be understood.

In discussions like these, it is natural for us to want to be heard and understood, but we don’t really get anywhere if we don’t also try to understand the other person.  In reality, you might find that your feelings are based on a misunderstanding on your part.  This has ABSOLUTELY been the case in my life, many times.

As your mother probably told you at some point: You have two ears and one mouth; use them proportionally.


Bottom line: While difficult situations aren’t fun, they can lead to the greatest growth in trust and community with your team.

Don’t run from these moments.  Embrace the opportunity to walk through the Tunnel of Chaos.  Learn the importance of being humble, honest, and seeking understanding.  By doing this, we’ll be able to serve our teammates better and work toward true community on our teams.


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