Lee Marvin. Ernest Borgnine. Charles Bronson. In the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen, these three butt kickers are part of a band of felons turned special ops unit ...

Lee Marvin. Ernest Borgnine. Charles Bronson. In the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen, these three butt kickers are part of a band of felons turned special ops unit. One MGM promotional poster read, “Train Them! Excite Them! Arm Them! Then turn them loose on the Nazis!”

Occasionally, in the life of the church, especially a church experiencing change, that tag line could read, “Disappoint Them! Agitate Them! Ignore Them! Then turn them loose on the Pastor!”

I had an unexpected coaching call with a pastor experiencing some level of congregational crisis. Sparing you the details, his question was, “Evan, we’re seeing some serious negative responses to [the situation] and I need your help thinking through messaging to the congregation as I shepherd our people through this.”

At the onset of the call, it sounded like the entire congregation was up in arms. A little digging revealed, as I’ve come to expect, it’s a group of about 20 (about 5% of the congregation). I call this group, The Dirty Dozen.

I’m not a therapist or a leadership coach, but, in coaching around communications, there are significant people and leadership issues at play. I contend that, in many of these situations, people are reeling from disappointment and grief.

Here are my 5 tips for dealing with disappointed people:

  1. Meet people where they are: Preach/communicate Romans 12:15 – Morn with those who morn, rejoice with those who rejoice.
  2. Help people identify any gaps in their behavior or response: Galatians 5 – Fruit of the Spirit
  3. Do not engage in email debate/discussion: Invite those who land in your inbox to a face-to-face, personal discussion (Half never will. They just wanted to tee-off on you).
  4. Diffuse the bomb: As my dad used to say from his years of dealing with frustrated retail customers, “Kill ‘em with kindness. It takes the wind out of their sails.” That means, don’t fight back, just lovingly, but directly work through things. People often just want to be heard.
  5. Encourage everyone to respect the Biblical authority placed on the leaders of your church. Heal and let’s move on, together or apart (leaving is okay at times).

Hopefully, as in the movie, you can turn your ragged Dirty Dozen into a well trained, POSITIVE fighting force.

What’s your experience? What works for you?