The Healthy Church Staff Podcast

Difficult People in Ministry: The Debaters

January 25, 2024 Todd Rhoades Season 1 Episode 14
The Healthy Church Staff Podcast
Difficult People in Ministry: The Debaters
Show Notes Transcript

Ever found yourself locked in a verbal tug-of-war with someone who just loves to challenge every point you make? You're not alone. On the Healthy Church Staff Podcast, we're tackling the tricky subject of 'the debater'—those formidable personalities that keep ministers on their toes. I, Todd Rhoades, am no stranger to both dodging and debating, and this episode is all about turning confrontation into productive conversation within your ministry team.

We'll give you the lowdown on handling those who can't resist a good argument, guiding you through the minefield of discerning between primary and secondary issues, and how to maintain respect while standing firm. Whether it's a one-on-one spat or a group discussion spiraling out of control, this session is jam-packed with actionable advice. Expect to walk away with a fresh perspective on how to make debaters feel heard without sacrificing the unity and direction of your church staff.

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Speaker 1:

Hello there, my name is Todd Rhodes, one of the co-founders at chemistrystaffingcom, and you are listening to the Healthy Church Staff Podcast, and this week we've been on a special short one week series based around dealing with difficult people in ministry. We've talked about four different. We're talking about four different kinds of difficult people this week. If you're in ministry, you've probably already encountered. If not, you will very shortly, I assure you. We've talked so far about the dominator, and yesterday we talked about the Dodger. Today we're going to talk about the debater.

Speaker 1:

Now the debater is unlike the Dodger, who really doesn't say much of anything. The debater, like the dominator, talks a lot. They like to argue, they like to challenge everything, challenge everything that's said or done. You might say something is red and they will argue to the death that it is green. They have a passion for truth and for justice, but they can also create division and discord among your team. So let's talk a little bit more about the debater.

Speaker 1:

So I can be this is just weird for me as I walk through this, because I can be both a Dodger and a debater, which sounds like they're two totally different things, and a lot of times they are. For me, it depends on what setting I'm in. But I also have been blessed. I say I've been blessed half-heartedly. I've been blessed with what I call the justice gene Gene G-E-N-E. Not like a pair of genes, I have the justice gene. So anytime I see that something might not be right or something might be a little off, my first tendency if I feel comfortable, if I don't feel comfortable, I'm a Dodger and won't say anything. But if I do feel comfortable in a group setting, I can very easily if I'm not careful become a debater where I want to debate a lot of things.

Speaker 1:

A debater can be a real challenge, whether it's for you, one-on-one, somebody that you just spar with on everything, or maybe in a volunteer group, maybe a worship team setting or a small group setting or even a staff setting a debater can be a real challenge for you. It could be you might have some debaters on your staff, somebody who wants to just feel like they're heard and that justice is done. So how can you as a staff member deal with people, difficult people speaking from experience here, because I is one how do you deal with debaters? First of all, you have to be respectful. You have to be firm as well. So here are some things you can try. First of all, can you differentiate between, let's say, primary and secondary issues? Not every topic, not every question is equally important or relevant to the discussion or the group setting or the goals. So you might be able to help the debater prioritize and focus on kind of the essentials, especially when it has to do with any kind of biblical, moral or theological truth.

Speaker 1:

A lot of times you can get sidetracked, and debaters can as well. They can take you off course. They can get sidetracked by minor or controversial issues. You can also just agree to disagree on some matters that are not essential for salvation or for fellowship. Here's a thing that I think really help you as you deal with debaters, whether you're doing it one-on-one or in a group.

Speaker 1:

Acknowledge their perspective Doesn't mean you have to agree with it, but debaters debate because they feel like they're not being heard or they feel like they're not being understood or that their views are just being dismissed or ignored. And you can show them that you respect them and appreciate their input by acknowledging their perspectives, summarizing their points. Speak back to them what they just said so that they know that they were heard and you can affirm some of the positive things about what they're saying, such as their desire to seek the truth or defend the faith, but a lot of times debaters, the thing that will enrage again I'm speaking out of experience the thing that will enrage debaters the most is if they feel like they're not being listened to or not being heard, or that their perspective is just off the table to begin with. So make sure that you acknowledge their perspective and actually listen to them. Ask them, ask them at times, particularly when it's a theological issue or a biblical or a moral issue. Ask them to put their money where their mouth is. Ask them to back up their claims with Scripture.

Speaker 1:

The debater may have strong opinions or convictions, but they might not have always put those together with some solid biblical evidence for them, so you can challenge them in some cases. Hey, so where are you finding that in Scripture, todd? How do you interpret Scripture in its context and in this situation? A lot of times that can don't be divisive or combative when you do this, but a lot of times that can help them to say, oh, I've not really thought about it that way.

Speaker 1:

And here's the final thing for today with the debater, sometimes you just have to take it offline, right. You have to go out back and have a couple words, particularly if you're in a tense board situation or you have a debater that's really just causing a ruckus in your group. Sometimes you just need to invite them to share the concerns with you privately. Sometimes the debater might have some personal emotional reasons for the behavior. Maybe they're insecure, maybe they're frustrated, maybe they've been hurt in the past, maybe there's some resentment, maybe there's a lack of trust. But in here this they may also have legitimate questions. They may raise some doubts that actually need to be addressed.

Speaker 1:

Sometimes debaters have a point and you need to listen to them, but sometimes that needs to be done more privately than in a group setting. So don't call down somebody that's a debater in a group setting. You're just going to ask for trouble. If you do that, try and do so privately. Offer them some real pastoral care, some guidance. Befriend them, because a lot of times debaters feel a little isolated, a little off on their own, and a lot of times they are A lot of times.

Speaker 1:

You can also help them to find some other outlets or resources, or maybe a book or a resource that can help, not to change their mind, but to give them. Debaters are usually gatherers of information, so if you've got some resources that can help them think through what they're debating, that can be helpful as well. You're always going to have at least one debater in every group and in some ways if you don't have debaters, the ball can not move down the field. So that doesn't mean they're not at times difficult and make you grit your teeth a little bit, but hopefully this is some helpful ideas and thoughts for you as you deal with difficult people.

Speaker 1:

Overall, I would say, dealing with debaters, you just have to make sure that you allow them to be heard. Don't let them dominate. We talked about that a couple days ago. Back and listen, to go back and listen to that if you need to, but don't let them dominate. But at the same time, make sure that the debater is heard and work with them one on one if you need to make sure that the relationship stays good and that there's no bitterness that arises. Okay, tomorrow, as we close out the week, we're going to be. We've already looked at the dominators, the Dodgers, the debaters. Tomorrow we're going to look at the drainers. Thanks to Chris Serrat for putting this together. Some really valuable insights that he wrote a couple years ago that I wanted to give a part to you this week. So we'll talk to you tomorrow and we'll talk about the drainers.