Courageous Communication for Your Church Staff: The Why, The When, & The How

Overcome communication challenges and foster courageous communication within your church staff by discovering the why, the when, and the how of effectively addressing and resolving communication issues within your team.

Susanna Fleming

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Let’s face it - being candid that someone has hurt you can be tough. The conversation can feel awkward and uncomfortable, particularly when the other person isn’t aware of how their actions affected you. It may feel easier to simply sweep the offense under the rug and move on with your life rather than discuss your pain. 

This challenge becomes particularly pronounced in the context of a church staff, where a shared goal and a sense of camaraderie may make it tempting to dismiss minor offenses.

Importantly, hiding your offense is only a short-term solution! While it may feel easier to avoid addressing hurt, candid communication plays a crucial role in fostering healthy relationships on a church staff team. 

The Coca-Cola Effect

Several years ago, I served on a church staff in which countless small offenses built up in my heart over time. I was so afraid of rocking the boat – and so afraid of damaging my staff relationships – that I left my resentment unchecked. 

Eventually, my internal world was worked up to the point that I had an unfortunate emotional outburst at work. I exploded onto everyone around me like a bottle of Coca-Cola that had been violently shaken. Thankfully, my team responded with grace. They were learning about brave communication, too, and all of us had work to do when it came to processing our emotions in a relationally and spiritually charged work environment. 

Not everyone will react to built-up resentment with visible emotional outbursts, of course. Some people simply walk away from their relationships or emotionally check out from their jobs. As church leaders, however, we have a responsibility to model healthy communication and foster a culture in which our church staff knows the why, the when, and the how of brave communication. This will help us build successful teams that model the peacemaking way of Jesus for the world. 

Courageous Communication: The Why and When 

I’ve already communicated much of the “why” behind brave communication, but I want to make it clear that we don’t need to communicate every single time we are hurt. Our communication can and should be proportional to the way offenses affect our relationships.

I’ll offer a metaphor as an example. Imagine you are standing opposite someone on your church staff. They skipped lunch and are “hangry” (a.k.a. hungry to the point of agitation), and they accidentally respond harshly to you. When they do, a small brick wall is placed between the two of you. It isn’t very tall, so you choose to step over the wall – back into a peaceful relationship with this person – without communicating your offense. This is completely appropriate as long as you actually step over the wall!

If, however, your hangry coworker says something really hurtful or demonstrates a pattern of responding negatively to you when they are hungry, it may feel like that small brick wall is impossible to scale. It may start growing too tall for you to jump over on your own. In this case, it is your responsibility to communicate about this wall to your fellow church staff member. In many circumstances, the person you are in a relationship with probably didn’t even know a wall was growing!

The “why” of brave communication is that it promotes healthy relationships and prevents misunderstandings. It allows both parties in the relationship to equally understand how their actions affect one another and to adjust accordingly. The “when” of brave communication, as illustrated above, is when that offense becomes difficult to move passed without communication. Understanding the “when” requires a lot of personal discernment and self-evaluation. Don’t skip communication when you can’t get over the metaphorical wall!

Courageous Communication: The How 

In many cases, how we communicate is just as important as what we communicate. This is where the Bible has tons of wisdom and insight for us to apply when practicing courageous communication. I’ll list a few verses that have helped me: 

James 1:19 

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger

Proverbs 18:2

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 15:4

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Galatians 6:1

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Proverbs 27:5-6

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy

As Christians, we are called to embrace the common underlying themes found in these verses (and others) that explore communication and relationships. These themes emphasize the importance of communicating with a spirit of gentleness, actively listening, and seeking understanding. It reminds us that when addressing offenses, we should approach the conversation with humility and a genuine willingness to listen rather than harshly expressing our grievances without considering the perspective of the other party. While it is true that open rebuke is better than hidden love, it is crucial to bring forth our concerns with humility, fostering an atmosphere of receptiveness and empathy.

With that in mind, here are four practical tips for ensuring your communication is effective and humble. 

  1. Choose a Calm and Appropriate Setting: It is important not to catch people off guard when engaging in courageous communication! Set up a meeting or begin the conversation by asking, “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” Then, select a calm and private environment that promotes open dialogue and minimizes distractions. A comfortable setting allows for focused communication and ensures both parties feel safe and heard.
  2. Express Feelings with Clarity and Respect: Articulate your feelings using clear and respectful language, always giving the benefit of the doubt to the other party. Communicate using "I" statements to emphasize personal experience rather than assigning blame or accusing the other person. For example, “I felt embarrassed when my ideas were dismissed” will be much more effective than “You dismissed my ideas.” 
  3. Listen Actively and Show Empathy: It can be easy to think so much about what you are going to say next that you don’t truly listen. Try to avoid this mistake by practicing active listening and showing empathy by seeking to understand their feelings and motivations. 
  4. Focus on Forgiveness and Solutions: While courageous communications don’t always go exactly how we want them to, we should focus on moving forward with forgiveness and solutions. Remember that forgiveness is a choice, but it is also a biblical posture. Shift the conversation toward finding solutions, exploring opportunities for personal and relational growth, and setting boundaries if necessary. 


If you want to promote healthy relationships and longevity on your church staff team, courageous communication is critical! By implementing the practical tips shared in this article, you can cultivate a staff culture that empowers individuals to address concerns, express themselves honestly and respectfully, and work towards solutions that promote growth and harmony within the team. 

For more tips on church management and building a healthy church staff culture, check out the Breeze blog

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