Friday, July 31, 2009

Guest Friday's Answer: Stop Interrupting, Please!

We're excited to bring you leadership wisdom from wonderful veteran leaders around the country in our "Guest Friday's Answer."

This month's guest post is written by Heidi St. John. Jay and Heidi St. John have been married for over 18 years and are the homeschooling parents of six children who range in age from sixteen to two. They founded First Class Homeschool Ministries to work with parents and pastors establishing an international network of homeschool cooperatives.

Here Heidi answers this homeschool group leader with understanding and wisdom that we are sure will encourage you today.
~Denise & Kristen

We have one mom who is your typical 'take over' mom. She is full of ideas for our group, yet she is extremely unreliable and is a poor example to others, especially our new members. Whatever she says she will plan for the group seems to fail.

When I'm leading our homeschool meetings she talks whenever there is a pause in conversation. She interrupts others as well (or talks in great lengths), and often I see the frustration others feel when she does this. She talks with a very slow voice, yet one that is commanding, so it is hard to interject and stop her.

I want to be polite, but inside I'm just thinking, "Why won't this woman stop talking so much and just listen to the wisdom of others!?!" She seems to constantly have to build herself up and is your typical 'know it all', yet her children are fairly young and she is not a seasoned homeschooler.

I have to remind myself that I not only am a Christian, but a leader, and I need to be a good example to others- especially those I lead. I seek to do His will and lead the group with true humility and wisdom, but this issue has me stumped. Please help!

Oh boy - I think everyone can relate to this on one level or another.

I've experienced that many times over nearly 10 years of leading homeschool co-ops. We have had serious splits in leadership and even in our co-op over personality differences too. I remember once when our very first First Class Co-op was young (in 2001) we had a mom who was always interrupting. It was a challenge for me not to throw my coffee at her at times! :0)

There is never an easy answer for things like this but I thought of a few things the Lord has taught me over the years that have helped me through similar situations:

  • Remember Colossians 3:13: "Put up with each other, and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." We need to be about our Father's business. Women, Christian homeschooling is a target of the enemy!! He will target us and do his best to bring about disunity. We need to be on guard against it. So often, I see homeschool groups split over things that have little or no eternal significance and yet we give them a lot of attention and energy, and as a result, we get side-tracked from what God really wants us to do.

  • Be careful not to let yourself become easily offended. Now I'm not saying that this gal is not offensive :0) Ask yourself, "what is the underlying issue here?" Pray for God to show you. Is it insecurity? A need to feel needed or included? It could be that this mom needs affirmation and doesn't know how else to get it. Ask the Lord for His eyes and heart toward this mom. I believe that if we ask the Lord, He can and will give us a measure of grace. Your Christ-like character will prove itself over time, and God will reward your desire to become more like Him.

  • Walk in the light. This is what my dear friend Diana Waring is always telling me - and what she means is that everything we do needs to be able to stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture. Are we being patient? Longsuffering? Gentle? Bearing with one-another? Loving? Telling the truth? And speaking of the the truth...

  • Speak the truth - in love. (Eph. 4:15) Check your motives. If you decide that you do need to talk to this mom - then do it by yourself first --follow Matthew 18. Just last week I had the unpleasant job of "confronting" two women who were gossiping. I hated the thought that I had to confront anyone. I put it off for three weeks hoping the situation would "right itself." It didn't. Two weeks ago, the Lord reminded me gently that it's our enemy, satan, who wants us divided! My enemy is not these homeschool moms. It is satan himself! My job as a leader is to lead in a way that brings unity. My role was to remind these precious women of God's desire that we model unity, not only as Christians, but as Christian homeschoolers! Because of prayer, I was able to speak the words I needed to in humility and love, and in both cases, we were able to pray together and hug each other. :0) (I've had it go much worse, and I have made my share of mistakes over the years!)

  • Wear the mantle of authority God has given you as you lead this group. If God has called you to lead, do so with boldness, authority and humility! ( I know it's a tough combination.) It's okay to say to a mom who interrupts constantly, "Excuse me, please wait until Susan is finished and then you may speak, too." However, if you can, talk to this mom in private first.

I hope this helps you a little. I'll be praying for you and the families in your group.

-heidi st. john
Connecting the Christian Homeschool Community
Building a Network of Independent Homeschool Cooperatives


MeritK said...

Thanks so much for your words of wisdom!

P and K said...

I think as Christians we tend to put up with bad behaviour in a misguided sense of doing what is right. Jesus had no problem saying to Peter, "Get thee behind me Satan!" when he had to. Sometimes it's the most loving thing you can do to tell someone they are acting inappropriately. I think the more we take the active role of loving than sitting back and letting someone fall on their face, we will see progress and gain respect as someone who will love anyway, even when it's difficult.

I had to confront a woman privately last year who left with another woman in the group. The entire group breathed a collective sigh of relief, she had been bothering people all along and I had no idea. The group has grown three fold since then because the oppression is gone. I wish the other two had stuck around but it was clear they were opposed to everything but their own ways. Sometimes you have to do the right thing by telling people to stop it. And that's perfectly alright! It's a leader's responsibility to do that in humility to the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I've had this happen before, and it was so frustrating. I handled it--not correctly tho. Unfortunately, it didn't end very well.

Thanks for posting these words of wisdom!