Handling Conflict

I've mentioned our new monthly outreach event that took place last Friday night called "The 3". It was an amazing event that turned out almost exactly how our team envisioned it would. However, while parents were picking up their kids, a very upset mom grabbed one of our volunteers and frustratingly blurted something along the lines of, "I thought this was a church event! Why was there freak dancing? My daughter won't be coming back!" By the time the volunteer leader found one of our paid team, the mom was long gone.

But she wasn't gone for long. The following morning she shot an email off to Pastor Rick who forwarded it to me. I share the following email exchange in the hopes that it will encourage you as you deal with conflict in your ministry setting. while I've certainly learned that not everybody response the way we hope they will, this exchange was a powerful reminder of the importance of quickly dealing with concerned parents.

Pastor Rick,
Why are our youth leaders allowing "freak dancing" at the youth activities??? My daughter was at the Refinery last night and came home with this disappointing news. She won't be going back.

Dear Mrs. O’Brian,
My name is Kurt Johnston and I’m the junior high Pastor here at Saddleback. I wanted to shoot you a quick note thanking you for expressing your concern over the dancing at last night’s junior high event. You would be surprised at how few parents are willing to let us know when they have a concern. I’m the parent of two young teens myself and, like you, I expect church events to be an appropriate place for them to attend.

It’s important that you hear from me personally that our ministry in no way “allowed” freak dancing to be part of last night’s activities. There were leaders in the room and whenever we saw anything that bordered on inappropriate, we addressed it right away (in fact the dancing was a very minimal part of the night…maybe 50 kids participated). Obviously with over 700 students at an outreach event, many of whom have never stepped foot in a church before, there will be some students who push the envelope and who don’t have the same boundaries as our “church” kids do.

In fact, that’s why last night’s event was created; as a monthly front door experience for un-churched kids. If, out of 700 students, there were zero instances of cursing or rebelling or even freak dancing, then I would be a bit saddened because it would mean that we did an outreach event and nobody showed up who needed to be reached. Our student ministry department is committed to helping junior highers grow in their faith and in their walk with Christ, and we are also committed to reaching out to students who have yet to experience God’s amazing grace. In an interesting twist, I asked two first-timers last night if they had fun, and their response was a strong “NO!” When I asked them why they said because we played music that was too clean and didn’t let them dance the way they wanted.

Last night was an amazing night. We had food, a skate park, smores at the fire pits, a scavenger hunt, giant earthball games, outdoor volleyball, and classic tv shows in the theater. Yes, we had a few students who danced inappropriately at times, but our staff worked hard to keep that to a minimum. I understand your decision to not allow your daughter to return to “The 3” next month, but I also ask you to pray for our junior high ministry as we continue our efforts to expose lost kids to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Please feel free to call me should you have additional questions or concerns about our junior high ministry.

God Bless,
Kurt Johnston
Pastor To Students

Hi Kurt,
Thanks so much for your reply. I appreciate the time you took and the information you gave. I feel a lot better about our church and youth group now that I have read it. My daughter brought three girlfriends last night to "The 3" and we brought the same girls tonight to the 6:30 service. Hopefully they will continue to attend, hear the power of God's Word and have changed lives!
Thank you for your commitment to the youth and thanks again for your response. I will definitely be lifting you, your team, and the jr high ministry in prayer.
In Him,

WOW....3 friends to church last night, awesome! Hopefully 'The 3' will continue to open doors like that. Please tell your daughter that wildside is proud of her...that is exactly what we hoped students would do. Good for her!


Stacey Windover said...

Conflict is actually healthy, you did an amazing job handling and diffusing the situation. Wow!

Ryan Guard said...

Great response! I love that she called it "freak dancing".

Larry and Jennifer Darnell said...


I appreciate the non-defensive stance you took. To be honest, I may not have been so diplomatic. However, I see from the result, that this way is mucho better.


Josh Mann said...

Dude, props for letting us in on this...I really appreciate seeing an honest and inside glimpse at how you handle/respond/etc to different kinds of things. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Awesome, thanks for sharing!

Adam J said...

Nice job Kurt - Thanks for being a great example of how to respond with the BIG picture to a mom who reacted to a snap shot.

Is that the second email you wrote?? Cause I'm not sure I would get anything close to that on the first attempt. I would have added something about a flying leap in there. . .