“Tell your husband…”

How do shepherds, their families, and friends encourage honest, open, and accurate communication?  What happens when people want to “send messages” to the elders by someone else?

Several years ago, a lady was upset about two issues in the church:  she had definite opinions about who shouldn’t be considered as elders and her dislike of a phrase I used in my sermons.  She was expressing her agitation to my wife.  After she vented for a while, she said to Gail, “That’s what I think and you can tell Jerrie if you want to!”

Leadership groups need to discuss, decide, and follow communication principles they’ll use to talk to others and themselves.  There needs to be discussion and training of the spouses of the leadership team about how leaders and spouses should respond to members wanting to give and extract information that belongs to the leadership group.

The way individuals respond will be deposits or withdrawals from the trust bank.  When Christians experience honest, open, and consistent principles of communication, they’ll feel comfortable telling and asking anything.  If there are conflicting principles used by different shepherds, preachers, or spouses, there’ll be pressure on the leadership team to plot one against another.

Some questions to consider:
  1. When messages are transferred from one to another, how does accuracy suffer?  Have you played the Gossip Game?  I’ve never seen a simple sentence transferred through several people come to the end accurately.  It usually has no connection with the original statement.
  2. What if the individual is afraid to talk to the elder or preacher — the ultimate destination of the communication?  If I am the feared person, I might ask myself, “What is there about me making it difficult for someone to talk to me?”  The one sending the message can be reminded it’s normal to be afraid to discuss some things with some people.  All talk is not pleasant and enjoyable.  Perhaps the first thing to discuss is why this person is afraid to talk to the appropriate person.[tweetthis]What is there about me making it difficult for someone to talk to me?[/tweetthis]
  3. If I transfer this message, will I become the designated messenger to the elders?  People have told me, “I don’t know why but everyone comes to me telling me their complaints rather than the one they need to talk to.”  If this happens repeatedly, it is probably because I’ve shown a willingness to deliver the message.
  4. What do I get from being the one others tell things that should be told to other people?  I can quit encouraging ineffective communication any time I choose.  [tweetthis]Have you noticed some people enjoy being the bearer of bad news?[/tweetthis]
  5. If I transfer a message a person is uncomfortable telling the appropriate person, is it because it’s the best way to communicate this or is it because I am uncomfortable telling the person with the uncomfortable message I won’t transfer a message that should be given to another person?  It’s amazing how I can help others and reduce future pain and dysfunction when I choose some appropriate pain by doing the best thing.

When the sister said to my wife, “That’s what I think and you can tell Jerrie if you want to!”, Gail replied, “I don’t want to.  I don’t carry messages to my husband.  Jerrie will be glad to hear what you think.”  She came.  I listened and responded.  Gail set a precedent in that church:  people who wanted me to know something should talk to me.

How do you handle “messages being delivered to the wrong mailbox”?

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Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

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