How to Deal With Difficult People at Your Church

We encounter people who are difficult to manage in every walk of life. When personalities clash and disagreements arise, handle them tactfully to minimize the impact. Finding peace in the midst of conflict is a necessary skill for dealing with difficult people, especially at church.

Chris Holland
August 10, 2022
Kids Ministry Leadership

3 Types of Difficult People

Three fingers

Church conflict resolution requires patience, kindness, and forgiveness, but mustering this inner strength won't always come easily. Keep reading for our guide on the different types of difficult people in ministry and how to handle them without letting them get under your skin.

Matthew 5:44

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

How to Deal with Difficult People: The Volcano

The volcano personality on the edge of erupting in anger

Thought Hub describes one of the most problematic types of people at church as the Volcano. We have all experienced people who you have to tread carefully around for fear they might erupt. It's easy to see why these people are known as volcanoes. Knowing how to handle these difficult people is a different story altogether.

Typically, confrontational people will either put you on the defensive and make you angry or scare you into silent submission. Neither of these is a good thing. 

The most effective way to calm down a volcanic situation is to remove the perpetrator and isolate them. Asking them to join you in a separate meeting room to hash out the issue will stop their negative energy from spreading to the rest of the congregation. Listen to their complaints without trying to match their energy and give them a clear answer that doesn’t feed into the drama.

How to Deal with Difficult People: The Vampire

The vampire personality draining people down in negativity

Energy vampires are people who drain the life, joy, and motivation out of you after an encounter. If they always direct the conversation toward speaking about their struggles but never take accountability for what has happened, they aren’t really searching for a solution. For people like this, the cyclical conflict is never ending, which can make their presence unbearably draining.

They may not realize they are doing it, and they might genuinely have a lot going on, but energy vampires will hyper-fixate on their own issues, painting themselves as the victim.

Many will just avoid these people in an attempt to dodge their negative energy altogether, but this is only a temporary solution. Lifeway Research explains that bringing the problem to their attention in a gentle way may be sufficient to get them to stop. If they persist, switch to communicating by email to eliminate the chance for the vampire to take over.

How to Deal with Difficult People: The Victor

The victor personality engaging in debate

A healthy debate can be fun and informative, enlightening people to alternative points of view. Small groups in church exist to provide a safe space for discussions and doubts, but what happens when someone takes over completely? The victor won’t stop until they have won the debate and killed the conversation, and it often leaves a bitter taste.

Drawing the line between debate and argument takes tact, as you don’t want to silence your congregants into not sharing their thoughts, but victors dominate a discussion too much.

Church Answers refers to this type of person as a competitive debater and highlights the importance of not vilifying them as they are probably just enjoying themselves. If a person thrives on an invigorating debate, trying to defeat them in an argument can be exhausting. Instead, de-escalate the situation using humor or saying something that ends the conversation while recognizing their position.

Church Conflict Resolution

Resolving church conflicts through communication

While we are most likely to encounter these types of people in ministry, the way we deal with them changes significantly depending on who they are and what their relationship with us is. A volcano church leader will be much harder to face than a vampire volunteer. Approach each church conflict with caution and follow these guidelines.

How to Deal with Difficult People: Church Leaders

Dealing with difficult people is always challenging, but it’s especially difficult if they are in a position of authority. Dedicate prayers to asking God to give them wisdom and illuminate the errors of their ways. If nothing changes, raise your concerns directly with the leader. And if nothing changes at this point, approach a peer to confront the issue with the leader together. In a recent blog, we offered a few tips on how to ask a leader to step down with grace.

How to Deal with Difficult People: Church Workers

Working alongside a difficult person can make day-to-day tasks a chore. When you are aware of their difficult tendencies, you can prepare yourself and protect your energy accordingly. Tell them how you feel but stay conscious of treating them with respect and forgive them for their weaknesses, as they are obviously struggling. If the problem persists, flag it to a senior member of staff and as a last resort, ask them to leave.

How to Deal with Difficult People: Church Members

As God loves everyone, your church should welcome every type of person with open arms, but this doesn’t mean they can do whatever they like. Knowing which battles to fight and which to let slide is important for maintaining harmony in your church, and if no one is bothered by their actions, it's probably time to let it go. Conduct any conversations in private, as people may feel attacked or hurt when confronted in public.

Wondering how to handle difficult people in the church? With love and kindness. Remember that they are a part of your community, and offering some guidance might be what they need to thrive.

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