We are embarking on a 6 part series of topics that we need to teach our students through our lives and actions. Students seeing them lived out first will bring integrity to the message we preach.

A few days ago I wrote a post about Conflict In The Internet Age and the growing reality of students who are lacking the skills or in many cases the desire to engage in healthy conflict or disagreement due to the messy nature of interactions like this. In addition to my previous post about a generation that doesn’t have to put up with anything they don’t like here are a few more considerations with conflict:

We Throw Away Things That Break: In my office at work I have a 1938 GE Console Radio (picture below). I love the craftsmanship that went into it. To think that every one of them was made by hand is amazing. No robots, not injection moulds, just hard working people putting tender loving care into it. My grandpa had one just like it and you know what he did if it broke or needed repair? He would load it in his car and take it down the road to the local radio repairman to have it fixed up. We used to fix things. TVs, VCRs, Toaster Ovens you name it, people fixed them. Last year my printer ran out of ink, I went to buy a new cartridge and sure enough, it was cheaper to get a whole new printer with ink in it, so I threw away the old one. If my computer monitor breaks it’s going in the garbage. My ipod? Garbage. My TV? Garbage. My Jeans? Garbage. When things break, we throw them away. So are we surprised when a friendship breaks down that students simply throw them away for a newer, better one?IMG_6568

We Celebrate Conflict, But Rarely Reconciliation: Celebrity gossip and sleaze is a multi-billion dollar industry employing countless people whose sole job is to get the latest dish on peoples favourite celebs. Conflict may not make them famous, but it sure can keep their name in the press. This culture loves a good fight and some good ol’ fashion smack talking. We celebrate the conflict, but how often does our culture celebrate reconciliation?

We Need To Be Champions Of Reconciliation: This is where we come in, where our lives need to reflect the values in Matthew 5 on forgiveness and reconciliation. How this is lived out will reflect our ability to be “the adult” when it comes to challenges with students. If there is a student you know who is frustrated with us, or with something we said we need to be on the front line of engaging them. Not because we want to be liked, but because like my grandpa’s old radio, it is worth the time and energy to fix it. Throwing it away might be easier, but the costs are high. Students need to see how we handle criticism, how we handle an angry parent, or a leader who is not leading well. When it comes to students who have been hurt by other students, it is our responsibility to equip them with the tools and provide objectivity so that they can work out their differences. This could mean very persistent and intentional communication with both parties to help them see the value in meeting. We must champion this value.

So What Do Students See In Your Life: Are you are the type of person that doesn’t get along with a lot of people? Are you a relational Tasmanian Devil going from person to person and not seeking to right your wrongs or ask forgiveness for your words or actions? Or are you a leader who can admit they were wrong, ask forgiveness of a student or leader when required. Are you a leader that will give up your time and make every effort to help a student navigate the deep valley of being hurt by a friend and walk them through a path of Biblical reconciliation?

We have enough of the first type of people, we need the second kind. We need humble leaders who aren’t perfect but can admit when we’re are wrong and whose lives reflect these values.

Are you modelling conflict and reconciliation well for your students? 

Geoff – twitter geoffcstewart 

I was a film major in college, which means a few things: I’ve seen a ton of movies, I’m totally pretentious, and I think Orson Wells is a genius. One of the things I studied in film school is the art of a sequel.  Some sequels can stand alone, meaning you don’t need to know anything about the series in order to enjoy it (i.e., The Phantom Menace).  Other sequels are completely dependent on the first film (i.e., The Empire Strikes Back).  Think of this blog as The Empire Strikes Back.  Confrontation is useless unless you first prepare yourself and your heart.  Because of this, make sure you ask yourself the three questions covered in PART ONE.

Confrontation can either lead to reconciliation or destruction, and anyone who has ever dealt with conflict knows that there is a thin line that separates the two.  We need to make sure we take every step we can to approach our conflict in a way that honors the Lord, and that starts with discerning the condition of your heart and the purpose of the conversation.  If, after prayer and consideration, you decide that confrontation is the best option, keep these things in mind:

1. Pray.  Prepare yourself for the conversation you are about to walk into.  Pray that the Lord provides you with effective words.  Pray that hearts are humble and ready for what’s to come.  Pray for peace and reconciliation.  Overall, pray that your confrontation will be God-glorifying!

2. Balance truth and love.  I feel like most of us are really good at half of this.  If you’re like me, you are REALLY good at being truthful (maybe too much so).  Unfortunately, we often attack others with our words, making it impossible for others to embrace our “truth.”  Others are great at being loving, but their fear of hurting feelings prevents them from providing helpful criticism.  We need to balance both truth and love if we want our conversation to be fruitful.

3. Be quick to listen, slow to speak.  The purpose of confrontation is to voice your feelings and frustrations and work towards reconciliation.  It is important to keep in mind that the person you are confronting wants to be heard and understood just as much as you do.  Even if you think you’re right or know you’ve done nothing wrong, make sure you allow the other person the opportunity to give their side of the story.  Remember that you are there to seek understanding, not to voice your opinions.

These are just a few ways to make the most of your confrontation.  What would you add to this?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

There are few things that give me that uneasy feeling more than the flashing voicemail light the morning after a Youth Event. Things didn’t go well, you might have brought the students back an hour late from the amusement park, lost your temper with a kid, allowed a trout to be thrown across the gym and land in the church’s air intake vent (this happened to me). These things happen, and they can really put a bee in the bonnet of a parent or colleague. Here are 4 proven ways to diffuse a hostile and angry person or situation.

Get the Facts Straight: If you know in advance that you will be speaking with an upset parent take the time to speak to several parties involved, get a timeline, who was there and how it happened. If you are uncertain of the event, or worse did not know that it happened, things are not going to go well. Parents want to know that you are in control and aware.

Genuinely Listen: The person that has called you has likely rehearsed in their head what they plan to say, how they planned to say it and the three points that they wanted to make. If you interrupt them, this will take them off their script, and likely make them more upset. Listen intently, subtle verbal cues (if on the phone) or physical (no crossed arms) will tell them you care about what they have to say. Repeat back to them the facts that they have presented so you are clear on what they are concerned about.

Own it: If you screwed up, admit it. Nothing and I mean nothing will diffuse a situation like saying, ” you are right, it was totally my fault, and I am sorry.” You admitting fault will catch them off guard, passing the buck or blame shifting will only make them more irrate. Once you have taken the blame, tell them what you are going to do about it. Have a plan for making it right and be sure to see that it happens.

Affirm the Concern: In the midst of the anger and potentially yelling, find something to affirm the person who is upset. It could be that you appreciate that they cared enough to come down, or that they are involved in their students lives to a point that they would find out what happened and come talk to you about it.

Angry parents are inevitable in Youth Ministry, but knowing how to deal with them and getting them back on your side quickly will help. Show Grace always, and avoid getting upset yourself.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church.