Last year, my friend Rob Cizek, who is the Executive Pastor at Northshore Christian Church in the Seattle area, wrote a very popular article on the topic of direct communication. In the post, he goes into great detail about the differences between being indirect and direct as well as how the latter is a requirement of effective leadership. It is a great piece that makes me wonder a lot about why we have such a hard time doing this in the local church. Don’t we realize that, by being ‘nice’ and indirect, we are only hurting the people we lead? If we can learn how to be direct in a loving and considerate way, people actually get better, and so does the church.
This truth is something we get to witness on a daily basis at Church Community Builder. As our implementation coaches navigate a church through the process of onboarding their new church management software, they must be direct and honest if they are going to actually be a catalyst for movement and improvement. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and, based on the phenomenal feedback we hear from church leaders, it makes a huge positive impact on how churches operate.
I asked Valerie Mathieu, who leads the Coaching Team here, to dig into this topic with me. Using Cizek’s article as a starting point, Valerie had a lot to say about the power of being direct and how the Church Community Builder coaches leverage it as a powerful tool to drive change and effectiveness. Let’s lean more.
Steve: Valerie, what really resonated with you in Cizek’s article?
Valerie: Three things jumped out for me:
- Direct communication does not have to be a choice between being nice and being honest; you can honor both.
- Being direct requires being open.
- Situational awareness matters and impacts the results — we must be cognizant of timing, locale, tone, and body language.
Steve: How have you seen the principle misused?
Valerie: Using direct communication without any intent to improve a relationship is damaging — these are worst abuses of ‘hey, I’m just being honest’. For example, using a direct style to vent instead of overcoming obstacles. If there is no desire for a better outcome, then the invitation into that space is a relationship foul.
Steve: How does the concept of direct communication translate to our implementation coaching services at Church Community Builder?
Valerie: They go hand in hand, especially when implementing a new or redefined process. Everyone loves the idea of change, but actual change is challenging. Launching out a new guest connections process, for example, requires everyone involved, from the parking lot volunteers to the lay leaders involved in followup, to have buy-in and be ready to follow the new process.
Direct communication during coaching accelerates the prep and management of launching something new. Let’s talk about the known resistors and the champions and anticipate what will be the highest hurdle for launching this new guest connections process. After the initial phases of the launch are behind us, let’s talk about the barriers we are experiencing and dig in to uncover the source of these barriers. These types of discussions benefit greatly from the direct style of communication.
Steve: In what ways does a coach have to be direct and why?
Valerie: Coaches bring a fresh perspective — and it is our job to share our insights. It could be a breakdown in communication, or something bigger, such as misalignment in vision between executive and lay leadership. We’re not talking about the weather — beating around the bush does not serve anyone. Being direct is how we respect everyone’s time and move the project forward.
Steve: What gives us the right to speak to church leaders that way?
Valerie: Ministry leaders invite us into these conversations to tap into best practices, current trends, and a level of field expertise that is hard to gain on one’s own. We’ve had the privilege of serving thousands of church leaders over the years — and we learn new things all the time.
Steve: What are the most common outcomes you observe when a coach ‘speaks the truth in love’?
Valerie: Everyone instantly loses 10 lbs — it’s amazing! (laughing) Seriously, speaking the truth in love does not make the issue go away, but it often lifts tension and reframes a discussion toward overcoming barriers and crafting solutions for the challenges and obstacles we want to overcome.
When it comes to the power of direct communication and the value of coaching, I love Valerie’s closing statement about how both are capable of “reframing a discussion towards overcoming barriers and crafting solutions”. After all, this is what is necessary if we are going to move beyond being ‘stuck’.
Does your church staff have a culture of direct communication? How has it helped you? How would you caution people in using the approach?
More About Valerie: Valerie Mathieu leads the Implementation Team at Church Community Builder. Her varied history includes leadership coaching and interpersonal mediation, both of which have helped her develop the capacity to navigate change with poise and directness. She has passed her gift for negotiation on to her son, resulting in a nightly UN summit to settle on his bed time.
More About Coaching: Coaching from Church Community Builder starts you off on the right foot in using our software and improving your ministry processes for how you do church. The critical thinking required for effective change management can be overwhelming. The good news is our coaches will help you adjust your strategy, build leadership consensus, and create or refine your processes to support your overall vision. Learn more here.