Dealing with Awkward Situations Smoothly

How You Deal with a Problem Often Determines the Outcome

No one likes confrontation. And yet, the Bible tells us that the reproofs of instruction are the way of life. All of us face situations in our ministry where we must deal with a situation, but we know that when we do so, it is quite likely to cause trouble.

Recently, we redid our lobby. We put in beautiful tile, a lovely fireplace, some very classy prints, and six comfortable chairs. We arranged the chairs just so, but we soon found a problem. People were moving the chairs. And, they were slipping out of the service, deciding to sit in those comfortable chairs, and not come back.

I must confess that my first reaction to this behavior was a significant level of irritation. Why would anybody think they can just move overstuffed chairs to whatever position they want? Would you do that when you visited in someone’s house? Would someone do that in the doctor’s office? Can you imagine somebody waiting in the lobby of a business and taking a big, oversized chair and putting it in a different spot?

The legs on the chairs were becoming twisted, and it was obvious that we would have a problem if people continued to move them. Of course, the first thing was to wait to deal with the problem until I was in the Spirit, and not in the flesh. But here are some thoughts on how we handled this situation:

1. I gave the facts. I explained that as people moved the chairs, the legs were becoming twisted and we would soon wear them out. I said, “Imagine what would happen if someone moved the heavy furniture in your house several times a week?”

2. I asked for feedback. I said, “Now, when do you think we should sit in those chairs?” Some people said, “Before church.” Other people said, “After church.” I then said, “When do you think we should not sit in those chairs?” and they all said, “During church.”

While it was obvious where I was headed, and the people were giving the answer that they knew I was looking for, the fact is that it was also obvious that people shouldn’t be sitting in the chairs during church. Now, the entire congregation has spoken together to say that the chairs should be used before church and after church but not during church.

3. I then tried to be funny. I made some comment about electronic probes having been implanted in the chairs that would taser people should they sit in them while the preaching was going on.

4. Finally, I became forceful. I did so in a veiled, and I hope, somewhat gentle way, but I believe the people understood I was serious. Having gone through these steps, I then said, “Now folks, this is my nice announcement. I hope everybody will cooperate after my nice announcement, because if I need to, I will make an announcement during my sermon—from the lobby—with my microphone still on.” I believe people got the idea and we laughed about it. I did not have to be harsh, but I did try to be plain.

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