The pastor stood before the congregation with a stern look on his face. His fingers curled tightly over the edges of the podium. "As some of you know, we had to make a … hard decision this week. What we want you to understand is that the elders handled the situation with wisdom and fairness, and though we know this is tough for some of you, we're going to move ahead. God has great things in store for our church. We encourage you all not to gossip … as you don't really know the situation. Pray for us as we make these hard calls on your behalf. Now, if you will turn in your Bibles…"

The congregation sat in stunned, pained silence.

Tough communication is an art

Communicating with a congregation in tough times is more art than science. Rules and policies outlining what to say and what not to say are rarely helpful because every situation is different. Sometimes, the whole truth can and should be told. But there are other times, when someone has to be let go, or a tough call has to be made by the elders where the truth, but not the whole truth is what's necessary. Knowing and navigating the difference can challenge even the best leaders.

What do we say? The short answer is as much as possible. When staff are let go, or there are other difficult situations that arise, people will want to know the whys and hows. They often have invested great time and energy into the relationships and ministries of those at the center of the storm. They feel a sense of ownership and given today's general distrust of authority will often assume the worst.

That's where authenticity and transparency become a leader's greatest assets in times of trouble. When standing in front of a congregation, attempting to explain a hurtful situation or challenging ...

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