Communicating Controversial Topics in a Polarized World
No matter what you say, it will be wrong for 50% of those listening.
Welcome to the Monday edition of ChurchInsider. What, a new version? Well, actually, no. It’s just my late post. Hope you’ll just see it as a bonus week since you’ll still hear from Dave on Wednesday!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have experienced the challenges of communicating about controverersial topics in such a polarized world.
During a recent Leadwell Cohort for Executive Pastors, these challenges were a part of the topics discussed by peers and mentors. One of the mentors, Glen Brechner, from Chase Oaks Church in Plano shared the following content drawn from a document used by their staff to help the team learn how to engage with grace and truth. I think you will find it very helpful as you navigate the same in your context.
No matter what you say, it will be wrong for 50% of those listening. Actually, it is worse than that. You will likely bother everybody, because you won’t go far enough for some and will go too far for others.
Opinions and divisions are defining our communities into tribes and antitribes. The fact that people are so overwhelmed and exhausted means that their normal moderating factors are non-functional.
Virtually every topic is politicized and polarized, and people assume we have some underlying political agenda for everything we say.
What do we do then when it comes to controversial topics? We have three options:
Be reckless with them
“Go there” carefully and strategically
Always, take the following into consideration:
Remember our core mission—we want to reach people for Christ and therefore need to protect our influence. We want to reach people on all sides of issues.
We also want to disciple Christians and create a subversive counterculture
You have to start with where people are, not where you want them to be
Be aware of triggers
Consider the best medium for each message
If you say too much about too many things, people won’t hear you anymore.
Be involved privately before speaking publicly.
If you have to lose influence, make sure it is worth it.
Don’t argue online. Personally invite them to speak 1:1.
Goal: To inspire insiders to love like Jesus and inspire outsiders to consider Jesus.
Check out the strategies, after this brief commercial break!
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Employ these strategies:
Address current issues through digital platforms like Youtube, podcast, etc. where a conversation can happen and context can be set.
Leverage sermons to address broader issues, and when possible use the issue as an illustration (e.g. race).
Use Social Media with care, focusing on what we are for…proactive more than reactive. If we do need to make a reaction, make a collective one rather than lots of individual ones.
Find ways to facilitate dialogue, empathy, and mutual understanding (e.g. unitytable).
Before you go …
In my last post, “Do You Have All the Questions,” I asked you to share the questions you have asked or been asked that have shaped your leadership. Just click here and drop them in. I’ll continue to compile and share the list with the gang in a later post.