If you’ve been in church at any point over the last decade or so, you’ve sung or heard the song:

The Jesus in me loves the Jesus in you
The Jesus in me loves the Jesus in you
The Jesus in me loves the Jesus in you
You’re easy, you’re easy, you’re easy
You’re easy to love!

Awww, such a cute song. That song caused a lot of folks to lie. Don’t look at me like that, you know I’m telling the truth. Everybody isn’t easy to love. On the contrary, some people are difficult to love. Or as I like to put it, some make you work for your “SAVED” badge. Leaders may have to work with a few of them from time to time. As a church administrator or executive pastor, you’ll probably have to work with them all – all the time. Don’t worry, if you couldn’t do it, He wouldn’t have given you the assignment. God doesn’t give us assignments without giving us the tools to complete the job.

Over the years, I’ve worked with my share of difficult people. Now, I’ll admit I made myself a liar by singing that song a time or two. But, I’d be an even bigger liar if I told you that I did it right each time. Believe me, working with difficult people is not necessarily one of my strong points, so I definitely don’t pass the test each time. But when I do pass, it’s because I do this:

1. Wait. Look, the truth is that folks will get on your nerves. I’m convinced that some folks wake up in the morning just TO get on your nerves. For some, Number 2 on their list of New Years’ Resolutions is: GET ON THE ADMINISTRATOR’S LAST NERVE. But you have to stay cool. Remember, you don’t have to respond to every e-mail, text, phone call, or comment right there on the spot. It has been my experience that 99.9% of the time, if you give it 24 hours, your response will be a lot more professional, more Christ-like, and more effective.

2. In that 24 hour period, pray and write. Write down what the conflict is (and if you’ve made it to this level yet, write down BOTH SIDES as objectively as you can). Try to see where you might be wrong. No use in dwelling on why you’re right (and truth be told, you may NOT be right). Then, write a reply to the conflict. You can include facts, feelings, statistics, prophecy, whatever you want. Then, pray about what you’ve written. After a few hours (or a good night’s sleep), review what you’ve written and determine how much of it really has to be said. Chances are, most, if not all, of your reply isn’t something that needs to be said. Draw a line through the part that doesn’t need to be said and toss it out of your mind and spirit.

3. Try to handle it yourself. There’s nothing worse than an administrator or executive pastor who has to take everything to the pastor. Remember the steps to conflict resolution found in Matthew 18 (first, take the problem to the source; if that doesn’t work, take a witness; and if that doesn’t work, take it to the church – oh and don’t forget to leave your offering).

4. Don’t be afraid to seek wise counsel. Although those who have the gift of government are super people, we’re not superheroes. Well, some of us are, but still… we’re superheroes with emotions. And sometimes, those emotions can cloud your perspective of a situation. If you don’t feel any cooler-headed after doing #1 and #2, you may want to consult an elder or even a friend outside your church for a more objective perspective.

5. Document everything. Maybe I’m just paranoid like that. Or maybe I’ve handled one too many conflicts. But I do take copious notes on every relevant conversation, and I save and transcribe every relevant text message, keep all relevant e-mails and written correspondence. You’d be surprised how many people will falsely accuse you of giving permission you never gave, of saying something you never said, or of doing something you never did. You’d be surprised how many people “never said that” or “didn’t know that was the policy.” Ohhh really? Well, let me pull out my notes. 😉

6. Refer back to the policy. Who can argue with a written policy? Well, there’s always someone who will argue with everything. But at least, if you’re simply enforcing (or upholding) a policy, the burden isn’t on you and neither is any of the blame.

7. Know who your enemy is. Sometimes we forget that we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against the devil and the demons he dispatches to attack us. Don’t bite your church brother or sister’s head off. They are not the enemy.

8. Remember your goal. If you want to win, you probably didn’t draw a line through those things that didn’t need to be said and toss them out (see #2). You will argue every point, Johnny Cochran style. You will pull out your Roget’s Thesaurus and your Strong’s Concordance. You will find case studies and dissect the “other side’s” argument line-by-line. But, if you truly want to resolve the conflict, you’ll realize that sometimes, you have to just take down and let the other person win (or at least let them think they won). Remember, the goal is not to win, but to resolve. Till we all come together in the unity of the faith…