I got a a voice mail Monday morning from Troy, our Naperville Campus Pastor saying that I needed to give him a call asap. That is never good news. So I called him. It turns out that sometime Christmas night or early the next morning our Naperville location (Yellow Box) had been broken into. There was no real damage done, but a limited amount of money was taken including some cash in our Ground Level Cafe. So, I spent a couple hours with Troy and the Naperville police trying to figure out how to respond. In reviewing our procedures with the police, we were not negligent (good news!) But we still needed to put together a plan to communicate this to staff and people who wrote checks that were taken. Ugh!?! How do you effectively communicate and not lose the trust of people?
This is not a big crisis in the life of CCC. We have faced tougher situations – key staff resigning, key staff going through divorces, doctrinal positions on polarizing theological issues, decisions with big financial implications. The best advice I ever got came from a phone conversation with Lyle Schaller during one of these church crisis. Here is what I remember from that conversation:
1. “This is a bigger deal to you than the rest of the world.” What Lyle was saying was, “Dave, I know you love CCC and are passionate about the vision – but just remember that you are more consumed with this than the average church attender. They are concerned, but they have a lot of other problems that they are more concerned about – marriage, kids, personal finances, vocation, etc.” Whaty Lyle was telling me was to communicate in a way that allows people to not have to think about the church crisis as one of their problems. Don’t overcommunicate, but clearly communicate the problem and what you have done or are doing to resolve it.
2.” Keep the main thing the main thing.” It is easy to let the crisis become the focal point of the church. But never let that happen. The focal point of the church should always be the mission and in our case at CCC it is “helping people find their way back to God”. So, make sure that the crisis never has more “air time” or “press time” than the mission of the church.
3. “Make sure your leaders can resond to any question they are asked.” This was the best piece of advice Lyle gave me. He told me to make sure that we communicated what had happened to all our small group leaders (via staff and lay coaches) so that our small group leaders could answer any of the basic questions concerning the issue at hand. What you do not want is for your leaders to be caught off guard and surprised by a question. You do not want your leaders to resond, “oh, I didn’t know that…” That allows leaders and others to think the worst. So the bigger the crisis the more important it is for them to be in the know. You want leaders who are able to say, “oh, yeah, here is what you need to know about the situation…”