Every eldership I have ever worked with I have told up front that I will trust them and that I expect for them to tell me anything I would need to know including any criticism that they are directing toward me. This is a very important thing to establish in any important relationship. Often we fear that being direct will result in alienating someone or hurting their feelings. Isn’t it more hurtful to talk about someone behind their back than to just be direct the first time? I typically make it a point in the churches that I have ministered at to also tell the congregation this – if you ever have a problem with me please come and speak directly to me about it. Again, this is an important trust building exercise but it is more than about trust. It is about doing what is right. It is about establishing a culture where mature, healthy dialog is rewarded and encouraged. That also means that those who try to say things indirectly need to be redirected to the person they are speaking about. This kills gossip. This also strips out the reward that people are used to getting when they complain to an eldership instead of talking directly to the minister. Instead of putting out the fire and “fixing” the minister, the leadership points people back to direct conversation.
This is the only true way resolution can take place. True resolution never takes place unless people talk directly with each other. If we are truly interested in resolving issues, there is no other way. If you find yourself talking about someone, ask yourself why you did that. Ask yourself whether or not this issue warrants talking directly to the person you have an issue with. If it doesn’t, then there isn’t any sense bringing it up to anyone else either. Most of the conflicts we see in congregations could be averted if we only spoke directly with those we had difficulty with. Oh what a challenge it is to be human with all of our weaknesses and frailties…all of our insecurities and foibles!