I’m sorry.

Can we say that together?

“I’m sorry.”

These two words might be the most powerful words to come out of your mouth and they’re two words every ministry leader needs to get used to using on a regular basis. Let’s say that together one more time.

“I’m sorry.”

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it.

Some of the biggest frustrations we’ll encounter in ministry are frustrated parents and volunteers. Not a Sunday goes by where I’m not having a challenging conversation with someone. I’ve found that the the more responsibility you have, the more frequent these conversations are. In almost every circumstance, these two words are the absolute best words to have in your inventory.

When I was younger (and less mature), I cared a lot about fairness. I cared a lot about what was right and where the fault was. There’s nothing more frustrating than giving your life to something you believe in and then having a parent chew you out because of a minor detail you forgot in the process. What about when a volunteer misunderstands something you said and ends up blowing up or spreading incorrect information that you have to come around and clean up. In the early days, my main objective was to clarify what actually happened and defend my actions, motives and intentions. With experience, I’ve learned that this matters little. In my effort to make things right, it’s possible that I’ll lose the opportunity to connect with the heart.

Taking a posture of humility in every one of these situations will change everything.

When the parent chews you out for a detail that you missed, an appropriate response to to say sorry for how you missed that detail. It’s important to take ownership for the way you might have inconvenienced or hurt them. It’s an opportunity to communicate that you are for them and want to offer the very best for them and their family.

When a volunteer misunderstands something you communicate and gets agitated with your leadership, one of the best responses is to say sorry for not being clear in your communication. Commit to them that you desire to be on the same page with them and even ask for ways you could better communicate in the future.

Yes, there are times that this posture is nothing even close to fair. In their passion, people can be mean-hearted and frustrating. However, taking the posture of humility is THE BEST way to disarm the potential explosive situation. Owning fault, even if the fault is very small gives the other person little to hold on to. The argument is over even before it begins.

Once defused, you now have an opportunity to connect with the heart. Explore how this situation made them feel. Explore how this situation triggered a past hurt. Explore steps toward growth and maturity. You’ll find that as you enter a constructive conversation, you can potentially address their behavior or actions added to the problem.

The conversation was never really about who was wrong, it’s always about the heart – and you’ll rarely get to the heart with those powerful two words.

I’m sorry.