The First Contact
There are times when your email comes in, and you sense a situation is clearly an emergency, and crisis measures are necessary. There are other times when someone does need help, but it isn’t a situation that calls for your giving up your evening at home with the family. Responding after prayer and finding a time to meet at your convenience may be perfectly appropriate.
Most of the time a husband or wife will want to talk with a leader alone, but if a couple needs help with their marriage and both are willing to come together, It is much preferred to be talking with them together. Why? Each knows what the other has said, and each has an opportunity to clarify the issues.
Unless you hear both sides of the issue, you cannot be certain that the person being described is exactly the one married to your trainee. You must understand that what you are hearing is your trainee’s perception of the situation, not necessarily what the situation actually is. The two are often quite different.
Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” Reject the temptation to form a verdict until you hear from both parties.
When you are training, solo and cannot get the view of the second party in a conflict, you are limited but you can help your trainee cope or move in the right direction for help.
Where to Meet
Training needs to be comfortable and personal. An office tends to be cold and clinical. A living room usually isn’t much of an improvement – too formal. Chairs are too far apart, and it’s too structured. By way of contrast, your kitchen table puts you in a warm friendly environment. It gets you reasonably close to your trainee, and gives you a surface to write on should you want to make notes.
If you do meet at a restaurant, try to give some thought to its environment. You need quiet and a measure of privacy.
How Often to Meet
How often and for what period of time should you try to respond? Much of that depends on the nature of the problem which has brought your friend to you for help. Problems which may have been building up over a long period of time are not dispatched with a single email message or even several.
What Can Your Trainee Expect from You??
You will want to take these statements and personalize them so that you are comfortable saying them. You need to convey these ideas:
I will do everything in my power to help you help yourself but I cannot promise an easy solution.
Problems of the spiritual can’t be surgically removed, X-rayed, or submitted to CAT scans for immediate evaluation. Difficulties which may have been in the making for months, or even years, will not disappear in a matter of a few weeks. At the same time assure the friend there is a way out, and whether or not you see it at the moment, you will stay with the person until a solution is found. The fact that you have hope gives confidence to a person who may have given up in a relationship.
I will keep your confidence: you can trust me
The person who comes to you is pretty sure that you are trustworthy, but your making this commitment helps the friend risk being vulnerable enough to tell you exactly what is happening in his/her life.
Keep confidence with people who trust you enough to open their hearts to you. Your failure to do this is not only a reflection of poor judgment but will ruin your friendship.
I cannot help you unless I know where you hurt
Some people, however, really don’t want help when they ask, “What do you think I should do?” They may be seeking your opinion like a politician asking advice from his constituency. What you think or say doesn’t really matter, because they have already decided on a course of action. They simply want to add your name to the roster of people who have endorsed their decision, provided you agree.
How do you know when a person is becoming psychologically dependent on you? What do you do with the person who emails you everyday and writes for paragraphs giving you a word-by-word account of “He said…” and “I said…” and then “He said…”?
Suggestion: Write, “This is so important that we should talk about this in person. Come over to my house Friday morning at ten. We’ll have a cup of coffee, and you can tell me all about it.” Your trainee, though, may be the mother of five and nursing the baby, as well as working part-time in the school cafeteria. She can’t be at your house on Friday at ten, but maybe she can join you at a chat room, or…
In such a case, outline a program of positive action, some kind of situation – improvement homework relating to the problem – a book or article which relates to the need of your friend, a pertinent verse of Scripture which you ask your friend to memorize, a tape which you want him or her to listen to.
Then when your trainee emails the next time, write, “Before we get into this today, I’d like to ask, ‘Have you read the book (or memorized the verse or listened to the tape) I gave you?'” When the answer is “No,” and you sense that the person wants only sympathy, and not help, say, “I can’t really be effective in helping you until you read (or memorize or listen to) it. When you do it, call me back and we’ll get together.”
There’s one more issue you will eventually face. When you succeed in helping someone, on occasion, the person you are helping begins to lean on you and becomes emotionally dependent on you. You begin to feel smothered, and you realize it isn’t good for the person you are helping either. Symptoms are daily emails, consultations before even the smallest decisions are made, and the constant need of approval of what the person considers.
When a child learns to walk, a parent offers support and help, but gradually as the child becomes stronger, the parent offers support and help, but gradually as the child becomes stronger, the parent doesn’t have to provide the same help. That is the way it must be with those we train. Understanding the goals of training and helping a person move toward psychological independence will free both you and him/her from that dependent relationship.
- The Techniques of Training (georgehach.wordpress.com)
- The Process of Training (georgehach.wordpress.com)
- Guidelines for Effective Training (georgehach.wordpress.com)
- For the Leader (georgehach.wordpress.com)
- How is God Present? (georgehach.wordpress.com)
- The Goals of Training (georgehach.wordpress.com)
- The Church As a Training Community (georgehach.wordpress.com)