In an earlier post I wrote about how to avoid visitation disasters. The techniques I outlined in that post can significantly lower the potential for a visitation disaster. However, there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility. If a pastor or lay person makes regular visits to members of the congregation, a visit will eventually go bad. When a visit turns into something negative, we should be ready to navigate through the situation so we can steer people back toward positive thinking. If a visit does turn into a disaster, here are some steps to follow in order to make the best of a bad situation:
1. Stay as calm as possible. Remember, the Holy Spirit knew this situation would happen and yet He sent us on the visit anyway. Trust the Holy Spirit for wisdom to get through the situation.
2. Make a written record of what happened as soon as possible while we still remember the details. Though it is possible we will never show this record to anyone else, writing it down will help us sort it out in our own minds. In the unlikely event we need to remember the exact details at some point in the future, we will be glad we have this written record.
3. Talk to the appropriate church leadership to apprise them of the situation. They are most likely going to hear about it eventually anyway, so get the awkward conversation out of the way as soon as possible. The leaders will respect us more for being up front instead of trying to hide what happened.
4. Be prepared to admit, and correct, any part we played in creating the negative situation. Even if we are only partially at fault, we should be willing to admit to that part. If we are the primary cause of the negative situation, we must be willing to admit that as well.
5. Pray for the grace and mercy of God to be active in the situation. Many times prayer changes the situation. When prayer is involved, disasters do not seem as dark as they did when they first happened. Often the Lord begins to calm everyone’s nerves as time passes.
6. Make a follow up contact in a timely way to help remove relational barriers. Be honest and tell the person we are sorry the situation turned out the way it did. Try to reach out and show kindness to them. Even if they are unwilling to accept the apology or kindness at the present moment, in time, they may have a change of heart and we want to have already done our part to resolve the situation.
No one likes a visit that turns negative. But the reality is that it is impossible to keep every visit positive. Even in less than positive situations, it is possible to have a positive long term outcomes. Following the steps above is one way to navigate the path back to a positive position after a difficult visit.
This is an excerpt from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway. The book contains six easy to use lessons to help empower the laity to assist their pastor in serving the needs of the congregation.