Crisis Counseling in the Congregation

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Perfectionism and judgmentalism are the great divides of any relationship, including the life of a church. A perfectionist views every situation as having only a right or wrong answer. A judgmentalist always believes his or her point of view is the right one, and thus condemns others for their "obvious" error. In my approach to crisis counseling I seek to accomplish three objectives.

Pastoral Counseling Scope of Practice

First, reopen the doors of communication. To accomplish this, I start by getting each side to understand the concerns of the other. Until you take the time to understand, you have not earned the right to be understood. Assuming you understand only confirms your ignorance. Second, clarify and differentiate the underlying values from the issues that are being expressed i. To resolve the carpet issue without understanding the authority issue is to fix the presenting problem while leaving the underlying issue unresolved.

In time, another conflict will inevitably emerge over another topic. The best way to get at underlying values is to invite each group to define its purpose and identify what values are being expressed through its activities.

Crisis Counseling

Begin with the end in mind, and work back to current realities. This creates a new way of viewing the issues, thus creating a new set of solutions. The best solutions are those that are most likely to achieve common goals. Third, make decisions that support both the values of the church and the relationships in the church. You will always achieve better results if you think along two continuums rather than one.

Expressed hostility, hurt, or withdrawal are signs of pain, injury, and misunderstanding.

Pastoral Counseling

The expression of such feelings is an indicator of poor communication. Instead of a clarification of the issues with a desire to understand, ideas are labeled and then judged according to one's preconceived biases. Instead of attempts to discover common ground upon which to build a new solution, endeavors are made to convince, or force, others to see the superiority of their own position.

Such an approach continues the destructive cycle of conflict by building walls rather than bridges. Effective communication takes place when someone has something important to say and another is willing to listen with a desire to understand. The weakest link in all communication is listening. Most leaders receive some training in public speaking; but how many have received any training in effective listening?

This is a serious gap. Listening is often much more beneficial than talking. It is through learning that new ideas emerge. This is the process of growth. In fact, we were designed for listening.

It has been said that God gave us two ears and only one mouth, for He intended that we listen twice as much as we talk. Of course, it was no mistake that our mouths were designed to shut while our ears were created to be constantly open. The better we listen, the more understanding we become. The greatest need of anyone in pain is to be understood.

To be understood, I must be willing to tell my story; and if I tell my story. I need someone who will actually listen. Hearing a person's pain is the first, and most important, step to resolving the pain. I believe that being heard is so close to being loved that, for all practical purposes, they are indistinguishable.

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Most people listen just enough to select the most effective rebuttal. Such individuals are thinking their thoughts rather than listening to what the other is saying.

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Listening must begin with a desire to understand. Solutions are not effective, and usually are not accepted, until the problem is understood not only on the intellectual but on the emotional level. The single greatest mistake in conflict resolution is fixing problems before understanding them. In effective problem solving, it is important to value one's own opinions as well as the opinions of others.

By making "I" statements, I give value to my ideas while creating space for another's point of view. When I make "you" statements, I fix blame and undermine your point of view. For example: "I would like to sing this song, for I believe the words express well the thought of the sermon. There is now room to discuss the appropriateness of the selection and alternatives that may better accomplish the desired goal.

Compare this approach to: "You never approve the songs I want to sing. They lead to conclusions rather than open possibilities. The first step in resolving conflict is to pay attention to our communication. The biggest dividends are to be found in improved listening. The topic being discussed is most likely to be a symptom of the underlying problem, not the problem itself. Often the real problem is clouded by the personal issues of the participants.

Underlying the discussion are the substantive issues of personal bias, authority, power, control, and one's insecurities that are masked by the need to be right. Vulnerability is protected by arguing over fixed positions. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason. Due to the high volume of feedback, we are unable to respond to individual comments. Sorry, but we can't respond to individual comments.

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The crisis in the congregation

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