Ever have a situation that takes up WAY too much space in your head? It not only stays in your head, but lays heavy on your soul? And the situation is much more personal, because you are directly involved? It takes place in your world, in your house, in your backyard, on your turf. I used to filter my response with, “If I am still troubled to the same degree as when it happened, or even more so, after three days, then I need to do something about it.”

It’s been three days and I’m still twisted.

Those of us involved in ministry with children in the local church are spunky, creative, and nurturing. We also submit to the authority over us, keeping our heads down and doing the work. We typically avoid ever drawing so much attention to ourselves that we become targets. We are well-informed and can quickly read a room for safety because we are usually followed by little people and harm will not come to our own ‘on our watch.’ It’s kinda like the gift the LORD gives and grows in Moms and Dads to expand our peripheral vision to a complete 360 when it comes to our kids. We are easily influenced by those with credentials seemingly a tad better than we perceive our own because we wish to serve at our best. We don’t push back and we keep the peace although we are ferociously protective of the kids in our charge and our fellow servant leaders.

There are strategies we can learn to engage in these critical conversations well. When our natural response is to freeze, fight, or flight, Rev. Dr. Scott Hughes, Director of Adult Discipleship at UMC Discipleship Ministries, has been blogging and sharing around the country equipping folks to lean into these critical conversations with courage. Scott and I collaborated on what that engagement could look like for those who minister with children at a learning event last weekend. In the book Crucial Conversations we can learn to prepare for that conversation using the acronym STATE providing an ‘easy way to introduce risky information and defuse emotion, making it possible to keep a conversation on track.’ (Crucial Conversations)

S – Share your facts…this was my expectation, but this is what I saw happen; address the gap between expectation and reality.
T – Tell your story…this is how you felt and what you are now having to do as a result of the gap between expectation and reality.
A – Ask for other’s paths…ask questions for clarity and understanding with the goal of creating an environment of safety making him/her feel his/her opinion matters.
T – Talk tentative…presenting your story as a story and not as fact; refrain from pre-judging motives
E – Encourage testing…perhaps asking, “Do you have an alternative explanation for the discrepancy?”

Well, it’s been three days and I am just as twisted as I was when the situation took place. The expectation was one thing, the reality was something altogether different. My tribe was affected and I feel responsible. Ugh! I know the ‘whats’. I can use the STATE method to prepare and stay in my lane. The challenge now is ‘when and to whom?’  I covet your prayers…

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” 1 Chronicles 28:20