On Drama In Ministry | Season 4: Episode 7

Drama in ministry - fighting like cats and dogs

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Have you ever experienced drama in your ministry? No matter the age group we serve, there will be drama. In this episode, Kirsten and Brian discuss the drama they have experienced in ministry and how they handle it.

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Brian Lawson:  00:00

Welcome back to another episode of The Making Sense Ministry podcast. This is the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. I’m Brian back here with Kirsten. And we are going to talk about something that I know that we all love. But before we get there, my oldest daughter is in drama at school. And so they are getting ready for their play. And she’s in middle school. And so I am the typical dad. And what I mean by that is I pick her up on Wednesdays after her drama practice. And I always say so, are you feeling dramatic?

Kirsten Knox:  00:36

She loves that. I bet.

Brian Lawson:  00:38

The first time she laughed, and every time since she said, What does that even mean? So of course, now, I say that every time and I always will say that. Because you know, that’s what I’m supposed to do.

Kirsten Knox:  00:51

That’s because you’re like, I don’t know if you think this is funny, but it makes me laugh and that is valuable.

Brian Lawson:  00:57

And making you feel uncomfortable makes it even better for me. So I’m just gonna keep doing it.

Kirsten Knox:  01:02

I’m gonna entertaining myself.

Brian Lawson:  01:05

So today, Kirsten we’re going to talk all about drama, not the acting kind. But the drama that we see with young people sometimes, you know, whether that’s in their relationships, or in a small group, where people are fighting, and they can’t get along, whatever it might look like, because we all know you’ve been around long enough you’ll see it. There’s drama sometimes. Yes. So how do we as the ministry leaders navigate that with the people in the middle of the drama, the people around the drama, you know, the collateral damage, if you will? And how do we re focus them? So that’s our topic for today.

Kirsten Knox:  01:46

You know, just a small topic, and this is small.

Brian Lawson:  01:49

That not many people deal with I’m sure, I’m sure.

Kirsten Knox:  01:51

Maybe you’ve dealt with this. Maybe it’s rare.

Brian Lawson:  01:55

Oh, so the last ministry that I was at for quite a while, it wasn’t long after I started, I’d say I was there probably like four months. And I had to have a meeting with the junior and senior girls, small group, to try to help them reconcile enough to navigate the rest of the school year, because they just couldn’t get along. And the root of the problem within this particular situation was one boy had dated like four of them.

Kirsten Knox:  02:26

Listen, when you were thinking that I’m like, listen, I had that it was exact same thing. And my I was thinking about as you were talking about that, that’s hilarious. I’m like date outside the ministry.

Brian Lawson:  02:36

Yes. One boy had dated like for them. And it didn’t help that he was really popular in school. He was really popular in the ministry, like, everywhere he went, I mean, that’s just the kind of person he is anyways, like, he’s very charismatic, people enjoy being around him. So that didn’t help. And then they all didn’t like each other because of the whole situation. So here I am, way past this stage in life, never myself ever been. I don’t think I’m very dramatic person anyways. And so how do I navigate that whole situation?

Kirsten Knox:  03:06

Yes. So Brian, we’re dying to know, what did you do?

Brian Lawson:  03:09

I don’t know that I navigated it very well. I’m not sure. I mean, in truth, we met, I met with our small group leaders and the girls, and we let them share what they were experiencing, and their frustrations and their anger and their hurts, too. And so I listened. I wrote it all down, probably still have it sitting in a file somewhere. I don’t know. Maybe it’s still at the church filing cabinet there. But that was it. That was it. We listened. And then I think I may have pushed them if they could hear each other a little better. Like, can you hear one another? And I’m not asking you to be best friends. Like, I’m not asking you to, you know, to do everything together. I’m just asking you can you be kind to one another? So that’s essentially what I did. I don’t know if that was good or bad. I will say the small group never really functioned great.

Kirsten Knox:  03:56

Yeah, it’s hard in that space, right? You’re like, yes, great, may not be the measuring stick just to function.

Brian Lawson:  04:04

Oh, Grant, you this was like 12 years ago, this was several years ago, I don’t know if I even would have set up the small group that way now. But that’s what was set up when I got there at the time. So.

Kirsten Knox:  04:13

Anytime you’re dealing with drama, I think it’s important to create space for them to listen to one another, or just to be heard whether that’s one on one, which happens probably a lot with us that someone is having some drama. So we spend time with him one on one listening, but also given the opportunity to hear from one another and set that pathway. How do we want to be if we’re all choosing to be in this group? How do we want to be here? What do we want this experience to be like for ourselves? And what do we want this experience to be like for each other? So then what are we going to commit to make that happen? Right, like I think those are life skills. I tell our students a lot. We are practicing relationships here. This is a safe place for you to practice, which means there are times you’re gonna get it right. And there are times you’re gonna get it wrong, but I think that opportunity like Brian put them around and listening. What a great way to practice conflict.

Brian Lawson:  05:01

Yeah, it was uncomfortable for me. I’m gonna tell you just, I was like, I don’t even know what I’m doing. Like, I wanted to be like, listen, the boys moved on from all four of you. So let’s just move on, because he’s not dating any of you.

Kirsten Knox:  05:14

You notice the boys aren’t having conflict.

Brian Lawson:  05:19

Which, of course, is not very empathetic of me. Hence the reason I did it, but I wanted to say that.

Kirsten Knox:  05:24

Yeah, I did pull the one, one of my boys side and I was like, Can you not date another girl in the youth ministry, like after the fourth one, I feel like there’s probably girls at your school. It would be great for you to date. He just laughed. I might get I’m not really teasing. And then he ended up marrying one. Later, that wasn’t even a part of the four was like his best friend in high school. And now most of them are friends and hang out together. I’m like, it’s crazy. Maturity looks good on all of us.

Brian Lawson:  05:57

As funny as we say, girls, but let’s intrude boys are very dramatic, too. It just looks. It looks, you know, and usually for them, it’s at least my experience has been, they’re throwing a basketball at someone who made them angry. Yes. Or they’re trying to wrestle him to the ground or somehow show that they’re tougher than them. Which is really their expression of being dramatic. Yeah.

Kirsten Knox:  06:16

Yeah, it’s true. I’m like, we both have it. It just looks different. Yeah. tends to look I mean generalizations but tend to look different.

Brian Lawson:  06:25

So Kiersten Have you had any of those encounters particular that you can think of in ministry or, or the training.

Kirsten Knox:  06:30

I had one that was you’re talking about similar, and then I, we had two mission trips back to back that were awful. And I remember coming back, same, basically, same difficulties, and the some of the same students who had also been part of that drama with a boyfriend. So now we’re spending a week away with each other. I mean, I was like, I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. This is awful. But we came back. And I’m like, Well, I guess we’re having a parent’s meeting, which is not typical to do afterwards. And set up a very, there’s the things you develop afterwards, because you’ve needed to, and then like now we have a code of conduct for how we are going to be here.

And what I really wanted parents to know is when that is broken, what are the steps so that they were aware of that because I almost hate to send kids home, and I’ve only done it one time. So I try hard not to do that. But I also recognized in this space, we were probably that was probably going to happen. So how do I on the front end set that up that parents recognize this is what we’re going to do and know that step. So we put in a three step program, like three steps of how we would deal with conflict. And that was hard to be able to do.

And truthfully I want to handle I have parents oftentimes say to me, because I have a couple guys who are just, I say they feel deeply. And they don’t know what to do with that. Like, they don’t know how to manage that. And a couple of their parents are always concerned that they’re a problem. And like they’re not a problem. They feel deeply like, and they don’t know what to do with those emotions. So we’re gonna work through it.

But my hope is that we do it in such a way here that I don’t have to, like, I’m not calling their parents and telling them that most of the time, right, because I want to be able to deal with it and to move on. And for it to be a place where that happens. But yeah, I’m like when you get a group that they’ve had a lot of conflict, it’s hard. This is what I said to the pastor when I had that happen. I was like, listen, in four years, they’re gone, I will outlive them.

Brian Lawson:  08:28

And that is always the answer.

Kirsten Knox:  08:30

Like, listen, I outlive them because the youngest, I think in that group that was having the conflict was a freshman. I’m like, four years. That’s the thing here.

Brian Lawson:  08:38

Now, Kristen. Are you saying that you’ve said you would wait out a young person?

Kirsten Knox:  08:43

I did. I did. I was like this, I called him. I would not say this publicly. Well, I guess I’m getting ready to but to them at that time, this was years ago. But I would come the mean girls, and like we have the mean girls in our group. And I hate that. And I’m like so we you know, you do the things you have the meanings, you set the end, at the end of the day, I will be here after you. And then many of them came back and volunteered with me. Like when they were college age and young adults, which was hilarious to me because they would get mad at some of the behavior that they did.

Brian Lawson:  09:14

Which is often the case, right? We usually get most upset with the things that we’re terrible at. Not always, but often. I feel like the thing that annoys you the most you probably lead me to look yourself because it’s probably there somehow.

Kirsten Knox:  09:27

Yeah, I was like, yeah, that’s rough.

Brian Lawson:  09:33

Hey, friends, are you currently serving in a church as a youth or children’s minister, perhaps a family minister and you want to grow in your leadership, gain some new skills and build confidence? Well, we at the youth ministry Institute offer a certification program both for youth and children’s ministers, and this is designed to help those of you who are already serving to accelerate both your leadership skills and your understanding of ministry. It’s a cohort based program, that starts twice a year. And so we are currently recruiting new students to join the next cohort. So if you’re interested, reach out to us at yminstitute.com. And now back to the podcast.

Brian Lawson:  10:16

So thinking about drama. So I’ve also seen it happen among small group leaders like the actual adults, themselves, which that one always upset me the most, because I’m like, you’re the adult here, like you’re trying to mentor young people, and yet you yourselves can’t get along. So that always frustrated me the most. And I have since learned that even if you’re 85, it’s still there. Like the dramas still there, like the potential for it.

So thinking about that, do you think kind of real quick, we could clarify some things to help somebody navigate drama once it’s occurred? And then I’m wondering, are there things we could do ahead of time to minimize its potential impact, or maybe even stop from happening in first place? Let’s start first with his dramatic drama, the drama has already happened. They’re dramatic. There’s conflict among a small group or a group of young people? How do we navigate that?

Kirsten Knox:  11:11

I think the first one is you want to be curious, ask questions, and give them space to talk into process, how they’re feeling. And to be empathetic to that I can empathize with the hurt and how you’re feeling and not validate how you acted. And I think that is important to be able to do. And I would also say to get on their level, like physically, like, if they’re sitting you sit, if they’re standing, you stand like not. It’s a power position, if they’re sitting and you’re standing and talking to them. So I would get where they are physically and have that conversation. So it feels back and forth.

Brian Lawson:  11:46

Well, I think that’s always true, right? That’s always a good posture to take. And, you know, like when you’re working with, with a child who’s seven, like, I’m gonna get down, and I’m going to be right at eye level with them if I can, because that’s meaningful. that’s meaningful. Yeah. So the listening part is really important and listening well. And I liked that you add listening without also like, for you what words you use for basically not validating that their response was okay. Like, you’re not saying that that was an okay response. But you’re gonna listen to them. And so where’d that come from? Like, what happened? Tell me how you got to that point, you know, what’s hurting you the most, or what makes you the most angry.

Kirsten Knox:  12:21

I guess, I think children and teenagers, they come with you, whatever they’ve already experienced that day, right? They don’t come to you on if it’s evening or even morning with a clean slate. They’ve picked up whatever they have experienced that day. And so some of that really could just have nothing to do with what was happening. That was just the last straw, right? So to be curious, and ask those questions have to be able to say another thing I oftentimes ask after we process what’s happened, I want to help them differentiate between, it’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to throw a ball at someone like both are true.

But also, the thing that I’ve learned that’s been helpful is to be able to say at the end, what do you need from me? How can I help you? And I think that’s important in some students, children, we’ve created different things. So when you get angry, what do you need to do, and that can be looked different than the next kid or the next student. So creating something like that allows them to really address their individual needs, and for them to feel empowered, because they’re then creating the solution being a part of the solution process, like, what do I need to do when I feel this way?

Brian Lawson:  13:27

Yeah. And I think listening to both parties, assuming there’s two sides to this that’s going on and try to listen as neutrally as possible. And then I think, at times, it is appropriate for the status drama between two people, for the two people to meet with you, and maybe another leader, maybe their small group leader or something, to talk through it, and to guide the conversation in a healthy way, where they’re not lashing out at the other person. They’re saying, your help, you’re teaching them how to say, like, I’m feeling this way, when this happens, then, you know, you’re a terrible person. You did that. Yeah, you know.

So like, if you can sit down and have them have a healthy conversation with one another. And I say I emphasize healthy, because I have also seen this done poorly, where the person is essentially attacking the other and being a bully to the other. And then the other person walks out just now destroyed even more like that’s not healthy. So you as a leader have to go into the conversation, ready to place the boundaries and to stop it if it turns negative immediately. Not to wait.

Kirsten Knox:  14:32

I yeah, I would say if it gets bad, right, you’re like, we thought we set this up? Well, it’s not. I think it’s okay to stop it. Right. And to stop the conversation. Say, obviously, we need a little bit more time before each of us is ready to engage in this conversation. And I’ll just shut that down. Like I’ve just been done. You know, just because you started doesn’t mean you have to finish that conversation is to be able to exit it.

Brian Lawson:  14:53

Yeah. And there’ll be maybe times that that conversation just isn’t appropriate. That just isn’t good to have. It’s not healthy for the people and that may be So and maybe you tried to help them, create some space between them and allow them to process what has happened as well. So there is times for that. And then, you know, at some point time, maybe you’ve evolved the parents, if it’s gotten to a certain level, the parents need to know what’s going on, too.

Kirsten Knox:  15:14

So my dad always used to tell us, we had to fight fair, I hated that when he said, that was just an eye language, right? You can’t just blame. You can’t blame your brother for everything. I’m like, Well, maybe that’s fair. He’s like you, but I statements, you have to fight fair.

Brian Lawson:  15:30

Yeah. So I also think this also highlights why it’s important to call parents or like, talk to parents about positive things, too. So like, ahead of time, hopefully, you’ve already like called a parent to brag on their kid or say, hey, guess what your kid did. This was just so great. So that way, when you call about something that’s not so positive, you already have somewhat of a relationship with them. They don’t think that you’re just this person who’s looking for all the bad things in their kid or something. Right. So hopefully, you’ve done some of that ahead of time. So that brings me to let’s go to, are there ways we can minimize trauma or reduce its impact ahead of time? before it occurs?

Kirsten Knox:  16:04

Yeah, I would say one of the important things is to set the expectation, like, how are we going to be when we are here, and that that is clear for all ages, that they understand, here’s who we’re going to be when we are here, kids and students, when they know the expectation oftentimes lean into the expectation. So oftentimes, when we’ve had behavior that is different than the first question, I asked myself, Si, have I done a good job? And is that clear, right, of being able to say, here’s the expectation, and being able to do that, I think that is part of the first step.

Brian Lawson:  16:37

Yeah, the question that comes to my mind, then, too, that I’ve seen where I’ve seen people get this wrong, is how do you then communicate who we’re going to be? And what I mean by how do we get this wrong, there’s one church I know of, in particular, who they have a giant wall, when you walk up the steps into the room. And it’s like a hallway before you get to them at a big wall. And instead of making that wall, like images of young people having a great time or, you know, positive, they painted on the wall letter painting of like the nose of the floor, no, this no that no this, like, that was a terrible way to communicate that.

And clearly the person who made the decision had no, and it wasn’t the youth person that made that decision, they had no understanding of how to work with young people. And they had no understanding of how to communicate a positive message versus a negative message. So that’s not a way to do that. So like communicating the positive of what we’re going to be, you know, these are like the core values that you live into, you’re going to communicate that to your leaders, communicate that to your student leaders, you’re gonna communicate that inmate statements the way that you make maybe in from stage or in front of people, or during small group, like, you know, hey, we’re gonna go to small group. And we’re going to listen deeply to one another, because every person in our group has something to offer, and we’re excited to hear from them. So when you go, let’s all listen really well to each other and come back and share one thing from your group that your group got out of it. Right. So that is a positive way of saying we’re gonna listen to each other.

Kirsten Knox:  18:02

The other part that you did, which is helpful is then in that you communicated the Why? Why does that have value? Right? Because I’ll lean into that if I understand and particularly students and children understand the why, like, why is that helpful? I want to do I want people to listen to me, so I want to listen to others. So I think both of that, give your how we’re going to be positive. And then why, like, why does it matter?

Brian Lawson:  18:27

Yeah, yep. We’re about out of time. Any last thoughts Kristen? Before we wrap this one up.

Kirsten Knox:  18:32

My last one would be I would nip it in the bud quick. Like I think sometimes we let it prolong too long, because we’re unsure of how to handle it. Or if it’s worth being handled, like do I need to step in? And I would say it gets harder the longer it goes. So if there is drama, or if there’s disruptive behavior, to have conversations with them quickly.

Brian Lawson:  18:53

Yeah. Yeah. And the only thing I’d say is, it’s not a terrible idea to put it in writing. Yeah, like I love handbooks in ministries, not because you need to have a handbook to be formal and everything. But it lays out expectations upfront as to give you something to handle parents and families that says, hey, we take ourselves seriously here. And so this is who we’re going to be. So I love it in writing, to if you can do that ahead of time. So, friends, if drama is in your ministry, I promise you it’s also in ours, as well, and everybody around us, and so we have to choose how we’re going to respond to that.

And so there’s some choice in the post response, but there’s also maybe some proactive things we can do ahead of time to help minimize the trauma. So if you have a young person in your family who’s in drama, the next time they get in your in your car after drama, practice, make sure you ask them. If they are feeling dramatic today. I’m sure they’ll appreciate that. They will.

All right, friends, that’s all we got for you. Until next time, I hope we helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

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