In the work of the local church, a pastor will frequently come across people that are challenging to manage, much less lead. These are folks that have established unhealthy habits in relationships or have learned responses to conflict that have frequently proved destructive.
Who are these people and what can we do with them? Believe it or not, they come in several, easy-to-identify varieties and you can learn to manage them and even lead them to healthier behaviors.
Then there’s… the Wet Blanket!
The “wet blanket” is the classic impossibility thinker. They seem to always doubt, question, or even criticize the idea that we can succeed at any new venture. So Pastor brings a new idea to the table and the “wet blanket” adds his moisture to the fire. “We can’t do that!” “That won’t work!” “We’ve never done it that way before.” These are the mantras of the “wet blanket.”
How to Manage the Wet Blanket in Ministry
1. Help them address their fears.
Help them believe we can by being convinced yourself. Be honest with them. Let them see that the new idea is truly needed and that the possibilities of success are worth the risk.
2. Assure them that failure is a possibility.
When the “wet blanket” believes that you see the potential for failure, he’ll relax a bit. If you’re honest about that, you take some of the steam out of his argument. You help him see that you have weighed the potential of winning and losing and are convinced that winning is more likely.
3. Remind them of the other times that they were convinced of imminent failure and success came instead.
Don’t do this in front of others, but maybe a “John, remember that you didn’t think our new service idea would work, and look how great things turned out.” You’re not trying to embarrass John in front of others, but you’re helping ease some of his fears.
4. Don’t let the “wet blanket” drive your decision-making.
You can’t cater to the expectations of such people. Take the attitude that 1) we’re going to move ahead, but 2) I understand your fears and I want to help you overcome them. 3) Assure the “wet blanket” that there’s a place for him in the new future.
5. Finally, point them to your church’s vision and how the new effort will help us take another step in that direction.
Always tie new initiatives to the church’s vision so people can see that yesterday’s steps are leading us to the current ones. Ultimately, make every effort to love the “wet blanket.” Don’t reject or ridicule them. Help them move past their fears and you may end up with a valuable team member. Somewhere along the way, life has taught them to fear. But maybe the new life ahead can teach them to believe!
Don’t reject or ridicule them.
Never forget that the goal of your efforts with difficult people isn’t to merely survive their latest unhealthy moment. You truly want to see new behaviors emerge in their lives. When that begins to happen, not only will your own encounters with these people improve, but every other relationship in their lives will benefit too. And chances are, this “new day” for them will lighten your load considerably.
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