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Scripture has a lot to say about how Christians should talk to one another, especially when talking is not the easiest thing to do. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be graciousseasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” Ephesians 4:29 offers more wisdom: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”

These scriptures are not difficult to understand, but they can be very hard to put into practice. We tend to avoid having certain conversations. For example, when the congregation needs to address a theological issue that is sure to stir debate and division, we might feel like putting it off for as long as possible. When staff members — including those who supervise us — have acted inappropriately toward us or others on the team, the thought of running into them at the office makes us thankful to be working from home. When we need to propose a change in ministry and we know our plans will offend influential members, it is difficult to know how to start the discussion.

Leaders are called to have difficult conversations. The good news is that if we understand what is happening in a difficult conversation and use the right tools, we can be more confident and effective when the time comes to have one.

For instance, it would be a mistake to think that all participants in a hard conversation are working with the same set of facts and feelings — they are not. According to the book “Difficult Conversations,”  these exchanges “are not about what is true, they are about what’s important.” Hopefully, this week’s resources will equip you to have the conversations that will lead to a more fruitful and faithful year.


Resources

Dangerous conversations

Q&A with Jared Bleak

How your church can be brave

By Elizabeth Hagan


Before you go…

Do you have a staff member who is not performing to your expectations? Do you find yourself in a constant battle with a key lay leader? Are you tired of apologizing for things you didn’t do so that you won’t have to talk through the issues? The conversations we don’t want to have are probably about something more than what we think. You’re not doing yourself or anyone else a favor by putting off the tough talk. Take the time to prepare yourself. Learn the tools that will equip you to approach the conversation with less anxiety and more confidence. You will look back years from now and be glad you did it.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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