What to Do When You Make Your Senior Pastor Upset

What to Do When You Make Your Senior Pastor Upset
Kevin Sossa

What an incredible summer we’re been having! Two mission’s trips, summer camp, and several service projects in our community. Yet in the midst of it all, I’ve had a tough few weeks. Trying to remain upbeat and function as a leader has been challenging. So what happened?

Well, I’m sure no one else has ever had this happen, but I had a bit of a communication breakdown with my senior pastor. I am usually really good at getting back to him in a speedy and appropriate fashion, but in this instance I was delayed in my response. Several things contributed to it, but no excuses – I just dropped the ball. That, of course didn’t sit well with him, and he let me know it. He was not thrilled, and wanted to get together to talk about it.

As I was awaiting our meeting to discuss the matter I was doing my best to keep focused on my work, but I’ll be honest, it was difficult. My mind would wander, I would play all sorts of scenarios in my head about how the meeting would unfold; what he would say, what I would say, how we would respond to one another. Then one day as I was reading my Bible I stumbled upon a verse in Ecclesiastes that really grabbed me. “If the ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your place, for calmness puts great offenses to rest” (10:4, Holman CSB). Read it in a few other versions, and hear the various spins the translators put on this verse. “If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great errors to rest” (NIV). “If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses” (NASB). “If a ruler loses his temper against you, don’t panic; a calm disposition quiets intemperate rage” (Message). “If the temper of the ruler rises up against you, do not leave your place [or show a resisting spirit]; for gentleness and calmness prevent or put a stop to great offenses” (Amplified). “If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes” (NLT).

I would not suggest that my pastor lost his temper, but he was upset. Have you ever made your pastor or overseer upset? If not, please feel free to write an article so we can all glean from your expertise. If so, listen to the wisdom shared by the writer of Ecclesiastes in this verse.

1. Don’t run! Like many of you, I am not one who goes out looking for a fight. I am edgy, I like to push the envelope in my church which can lead to controversy, but I definitely don’t go out trying to create unnecessary conflict. My natural response to conflict – especially when it is interpersonal – is to avoid. Often when the tension is high I begin drafting a resignation letter in my head. I would just assume get out of Dodge than go to war. Yet, that is not always healthy. Sometimes we need to engage the conflict. Working through issues rather than trying to go around them will lead to greater health, and learning to do so develops character and people skills necessary for longevity in ministry. The key is we must deal with conflict in a healthy, God-honoring way. For others, rushing right in and attacking a problem is their knee-jerk response. Often this is rooted in defensiveness. I have found that people who operate from a place of defensiveness are often wounded, and as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. This verse suggests that the best response is to just remain at your post. Just keep doing your job. Demonstrate that you’re not going to run away because of fear, and that you’re not going to get defensive and attack out of pain.

2. Stay calm. Whatever your initial reaction is to conflict, it is important to get yourself into a calm state so you can think objectively and operate gracefully. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us not to panic, not to worry, but to stay composed. In the words of the great Chubbs Peterson to Happy Gilmore, we need to go to our happy place. For me this can take a little time. I might need to go for a walk or a run to burn off my initial stress and clear my mind. I might need to sit down and journal to process and unpack what’s happening and how I’m feeling. Whatever you need to do to get yourself into a composed, calm state, do it. You don’t want your emotions to get the best of you. Your calm, measured response will speak volumes of your character and demonstrate a level of maturity that will hopefully earn the respect of your leader and anyone else who might be watching.

3. Have an honest look. Another thing that is not specifically spelled out in this verse, but I think is something we can suggest is to – in your calmed-down state, step back and objectively seek to understand your leader. What made them upset at you? Is there something you need to work on? Do you truly understand your leader and his or her leadership style, communication preferences, personality distinctives? How do those things mesh with your wiring? What do you need to do to bridge any gaps between you?

Knowing yourself and understanding your leader will go a long way in avoiding major conflicts in the future. In the end I had a very good, healthy conversation with my pastor. He asked me some questions to better understand my outlook on some issues. He shared why he had gotten upset and what had contributed to his frustration. I shared my heart. I apologized for my part in the conflict. We prayed together, and I believe we both grew through the situation. Walking through the fires of conflict helped to refine my leadership and forge our relationship, making it stronger and healthier as we move forward.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

This article “What to Do When You Make Your Senior Pastor Upset” by Kevin Sossa was excerpted from: www.simplyyouth.com website. September 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.