Recently, I visited a neighboring Special Gathering program to practice our Christmas music.  It seemed like a good idea. However, it appears that I really messed up.  After the practice, I heard that I “put down” this great choir.  I was shocked because I was so completely impressed with them that I thought they were the best choir of the four with which I’ve worked.

In my attempts to compliment this choir, I assume I mixed up the names and somehow the result was that the choir felt insulted.  That was the last thing I wanted to do.  Fortunately, the choir members told someone; and I was able to straighten out the misunderstanding.

Communication is perhaps the most tricky thing that we do as Christians.  Often, when we are trying to show compassion, we are accused of being harsh or judgmental.  Our great intentions can be viewed as meddling or interference.

I wish I could give some great pointers that would direct you to a better way of communication; but, as my recent experience shows, I’m still a novice in this area.

I am encouraged, however, when I read the scriptures.  Two great Titans of the faith, Paul and Peter, became meshed in the lack of communication webbed tangle.  Paul rebuked Peter who sat with the Jews at a meal when Gentiles were also partaking at the meal.  This was seen as an insult to the Gentiles.  It was a pretty stupid move on the part of Peter and probably deserved rebuke.

Peter, on the other hand, wrote that Paul’s teachings were so complicated that, at times, even he could not understand what Paul was try to say.  This gives me encouragement, because I often find my eyes glazing over while reading Paul’s letters.  Even though, I’ve read them hundred’s of times, I’m still perplexed by what Paul actually meant by certain sentences and paragraphs.

There are a couple of things I have learned when communication turns sour and you are the offending party.

  1. Try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  Don’t let things linger.
  2. Don’t let our natural inclination to avoid confrontation interfer with the need to find common ground.
  3. Apologize.  Even if you are absolutely sure that the other person has misunderstood, you are partially at fault because your communication fell apart at some point.
  4. Be honest.
  5. Try to find common ground by assuring the person you did not intend to offend them.
  6. Find something that you admire about the other person; and let them know how much you respect them in this area.
  7. Be humble.  Allow yourself to take the blame.  In the scheme of eternity, this incident will probably not bleep on God’s Richter Scale.
  8. Don’t cower.  Even if you are the offending party, stand straight and expect respect by you actions.  It will not help your relationship to become a whipping boy for the offended party. While this may sound contratictory, humility does not mean that you become someone’s door mat.  In fact, it should have the opposite effect.
  9. Don’t expect men and women to react the same way.  Men will be brief and polite but their attitudes may seem dismissive.  Women will either want to rehearse the offense again; or they will want to rehearse your apology as a way of affirming you.
  10. I believe that face-to-face communication is often the best.  I learned many years ago that I am almost never offended when I am facing another person.  It is the rehearsal of the event or the process of routine thinking that magnifies the event into an insult.  Psychologists tell us that this is true with most people.

Will these steps erase all offenses?  No. But they may go a long way in helping you to mend important fences in your life.

Today, I’m finishing up The Special Gathering’s monthly newsletter to our members, Connecting Point.  We named it that because we wanted our members to be able to connect with God, their local Special Gathering program, the community and each other.  It also has become a tool that we use to connect Special Gathering, which is a para-church ministry, to the congregations in our area.  At Special Gathering, our mission is to evangelize and disciple people who are mentally challenged.

Connecting Point is a pretty ambitious project each month.  There are twelve 8×11 pages.  However, we do pad the issue with three pages of puzzles and a cartoon page.  The post office also helps.  The postal rate we use to send it, requires that we employ at least a 20 point font.  There is a Bible study page and story page.  For years, one of our Bible teachers has authored the continuing stories for us.  She is E. Williams.  Ms. Williams is also a parent.

Each geographic area, which generally consists of two programs, formats their own front page, back page and two calendar pages.  These pages are personalized and oriented to the needs of the local groups.  The other eight pages are generic.  

Perhaps of all the things we do, this could be the most effective, other than our chapel programs.  Our members love receiving mail each month.  They especially delight in having their articles in the newsletter, seeing their names in print and finding our mistakes. 

If you would like to be added to our mailing list.  Just comment to this article.  Our e-mail address is lhoward@specialgatherings.com  Or our snail mail address is P. O. Box 6002, Vero Beach, FL  32961. 

What is the most effective tool you use to communicate with your members?  Have you been able to use the internet effectively to reach mentally challenged persons?  If so, what tools are you using to do that?