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Responding to Difficult Questions

Dexter Culbreath
Dexter Culbreath Thursday February 1, 2018
<? echo $type; ?> Responding to Difficult Questions

When we signed up to be leaders, we also put on a magnet. Like it not, people will be drawn to us. I mean, we should have known it, though. The very word, leader, implies that there are people being led by someone. For one reason or another, people have actually chosen to follow us. They have given us permission to lead them.

So let’s not be surprised when we are approached. More often than not, there will be a knock on the door, a phone call, a text, direct message or some type of notification. However, it does not stop there.

What about when you bump into members of the community in the grocery store, or when they interrupt you mid-stride during your elliptical session at the neighborhood gym.

But what do we expect? We are leaders. If we cannot handle the tough, awkward, challenging matters, maybe we need to reevaluate being in leadership. We accepted this responsibility to serve people, right?

It is no surprise that there are massive amounts of troubling tensions plaguing the world right now. Even while reading this, people are suffering, children are starving, families are in turmoil, many are dying, different groups are rebelling, tempers are raging, and fear is sweeping the globe.

In hope of resolution, and even “just because,” we have let off steam to our friends, neighbors, coworkers and even our social media audiences. We have played through our own ideas of how to fix the world’s ills, but to no resolve. Who can we go to now? Who can provide a sense of security, comfort and peace?

As blood pressures spike, fists form, and anger begins to settle in, something else also happens—church auditoriums have fewer empty seats. Somehow, amidst the looming fog of frustration, many recognize the need for resolution and look to godly leaders.

Godly leaders should be one of the first places people can turn to for resolve. We have the responsibility to create a safe place where people feel more than comfortable to express life’s hardest battles, difficult news, and perplexing questions; because when all other audiences have failed, their questions still need to be addressed.

So, the questions and concerns begin to flood our ears and our inboxes at a higher rate than usual. The questions are good. They are valid. They are relevant. But they are also tough. We cannot give a prepackaged, cliché answer. So, how do we respond when we are hit with these tough concerns?

As godly leaders, our responses have to be full of truth, love, and empathy. God is not flailing about, out of control, wondering what to do—so neither should we.

Responding with truth takes a lot of the pressure off. We are not to respond in haste, nor with opinion. Providing the truth of God’s Word or even the truth that we don’t know the answer is so much better than making something up that sounds good. We need to understand that it is okay to say, “Can I get back with you on that?” That will illustrate an authentic determination to them.

Responding in love communicates that the person and their questions matter. It demonstrates a humble posture and positive attitude. There is no need for us to come off as know-it-alls because we aren’t. Nor do we need to present a harsh tone. Doing so almost always guarantees they will not return to us the next time they have questions.

Responding with empathy conveys a genuine desire to put on their shoes. Sometimes our answer may be different if we looked through lenses other than our own. We can answer with more specificity when we put ourselves in their place.

Finally, and maybe even most importantly, hard conversations need to happen in person. Text, email, and social media conversations are not the spaces for tough talks. Far too many words and phrases are misinterpreted, leading to unnecessary escalation.

The local church is the hope of the world, but if people cannot approach the church with the tough things, where else is their hope? Practicing truthful, loving, and empathetic responses will produce conversations that are more productive and less divisive.

Dexter Culbreath is a leader, family advocate and director of community development at Love Beyond Walls. He is passionate about seeing families at their best. His blend of corporate and ministry leadership experience provides a unique perspective and approach to guiding families toward wholeness. Dexter desires to bring communities together—centered around family.