General Ministry
Josh Griffin

Have you ever got a message on your voicemail or read the subject of an email and a pit instantly developed in your stomach? I have. I remember getting a voicemail from a parent that was upset with me. To say the least…she was livid. As I listened to her message, I hoped that she just wanted to scream at me over voicemail and would forget to ask me to call her back. She didn’t and as she concluded her message, she gave me her phone number and told me to call.

You may think that I’m a super pastor and handle those situations with ease. I’m not. I did what most people do–I avoided. I instantly came up with a bunch of urgent to-do items and calling her back was easily put off until later in the day. I remember thinking that I should just suck it up and call her back instantly, but I didn’t.

Fast-forward a couple days and as I waited for her and her husband to come into my office for a face-to-face, I was scared to death. Not only did I forget to call her back as the day went on, I waited to the next day.

The first few moments after they entered my office, she told me that I didn’t see her call (or this issue) as urgent. I see where she was coming from, but in all honesty, what she didn’t know is that I wanted to run away and enter the witness protection program. I always knew that dealing with conflict and angry parents were a part of the gig, but this wasn’t what I signed up for in student ministry. Where was the metro worship pastor playing kumbaya?

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The meeting was a mess and nothing I said helped the matter. After a good fist pounding on my desk, several colorful words, and awkward moments of “I’m catching my breath” silence the ordeal was over. That day, I learned that I needed to make my most difficult call first. I realized that doing so forces me to handle situations I don’t want to handle. It also keeps me from accidently forgetting or stressing about it the rest of the day. I’ve compiled a “To-do” list for handling tough issues like this. I hope it helps!

  • Pull out your Bible and read Philippians 4:5
  • Make a list of a couple key points that you want to communicate
  • Allow them to vent their frustration (Resist the urge to interrupt and defend yourself)
  • In response, control your tone of voice
  • Admit any personal fault
  • Thank them for contacting you

These steps won’t guarantee that everything will go away. I still resist the urge to put off hard conversations, but experience has taught me that implementing these items can spur healing and forgiveness.

What is the hardest call you’ve ever had to make?

About Nick Farr: By the age of 30, Nick has served as a missionary, creative arts director, student pastor, graphic designer, freelance photographer, and now church planter. He’s married to an amazing woman and has one daughter. He’s regularly blogs at http://www.EverythingPastor.com

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  • Philip Long says:

    Sage advice. Sage advice.

    Your advice could be given to life in general. I find that my natural instincts are all wrong. I don’t want to do the things I need to do the most. So it’s super-important to surrender to God, take a deep breath and dive into these situations. Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with to many angry parents yet, but I’m sure my time will come. – Philip http://www.philip-bloggled.blogspot.com

  • Julie says:

    Almost every time I have an angry or upset parent they choose to use email as the medium to communicate their frustration. This has some pluses (including being able to forward to my Sr. pastor for his input or awareness) but I had one parent who absolutely refused to meet in person to discuss an issue. She wouldn’t even talk on the phone! Email was a way for her to rant without having to listen or engage in a reconciling conversation and that relationship still hasn’t recovered.

  • Nick Farr says:

    Thanks Philip!

    Julie, That’s a hard situation and sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got. Way to stick it out!

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