Skip to content

Confronting Confrontation


An important part of every leader’s job responsibilities is confrontation. It is often one of the least favorite duties. As a matter of fact, I would say that it is one of the most neglected aspects of leadership in many churches.  There are many forms of confrontation that are necessary in church life.  Confrontation that deals with moral issues is unique unto themselves and we will deal with those at another time. Here we will deal specifically with job performance of both staff and volunteers.

A leader who is not honest about job performance with his staff and key volunteers will suffer the consequences of poor performance and mediocrity in all aspects of ministry.  It is unfair to the staff member or volunteer if the first time he or she is held accountable for poor performance is when they are being relieved of their jobs. This lack of accountability can also cause a church to loose a good staff member or volunteer who simply needs direction.

Here are some guidelines for confronting your team about poor job performance.

1. Be a good match maker. Don’t hire someone to do a job if it is obvious that they are not the right person for the job. Don’t talk a volunteer into taking a job that they are not equipped to do. While sometimes you have to think “outside the box” to fill a position, be realistic. If you enlist someone to do a job and you have questions about the fit, set an appointed time to sit down with the person to evaluate the fit. This is difficult when it involves hiring someone, but works well in recruiting volunteers.

2. Don’t delay. From the very beginning be honest with a new staff member or volunteer. Don’t let them live under the false assumption that they are achieving their objective. You are only hurting the person by allowing them to live under that false impression.

3. Document. Documentation is vital in two ways. First, document specific examples of short comings so that when you meet with the person you can be clear with them about their performance.  They will ask you for specifics. Be prepared. Second, document your “job performance meetings” with all your staff. Depending on the state laws in the state where you live, this may be essential if your terminate an employee. Regardless of that, for your own records, you need to document your meetings, the evaluations you give, and the instruction and suggestions you give for improvement. This documentation will be important for you and your board in the event there is congregational unrest.

4. Stay Focused. When confronting a staff member or volunteer, staff focused on the real issues. Don’t allow the person you are confronting to change the subject or take control of the conversation. Be prepared for the meeting. Set the agenda before the meeting and have good notes to follow. Don’t leave the meeting with important issues still unresolved.  Make certain the person is clear on expectations, suggestions, assignments, and the timetable for future evaluation meetings.

5. Have a pre-determined plan. Before you go into the meeting, have at least one plan. I say “at least one” because your response may be based on their response, depending on how many times you have already dealt with this specific issue. If this is the first confrontation, have a plan that will help the person improve their performance. If this is “another” meeting, you may need to have several responses depending on their attitude. If this is a “final” meeting and you have made the decision to terminate, know the exit strategy such as timing and severance package if it is a paid position. Always be redemptive! If it is a volunteer, know the redemptive process or the re-assignment procedure. Remember, everyone is a “10” somewhere. Our job is help our people find their place of service.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 11/02/2009 7:48 am

    Lamar, Great stuff. Bobb Biehl taught me to use the “leadership star” to deal with a difficult conversation to you don’t neglect to deal with the actual issue or back off of what you need to say. I have used it in everything from minor work performance to terminating someone.

    It is an excellent tool. I posted it at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: