Best practice for managing difficult conversations

Actions to think about before presenting our pre-prepared homily to a faith community who have made an inquiry to request a speaker

Before the event:

  • A notice, at least 3 weeks prior to the event, of the topic – violence against women (this provides people with an option to opt out )
  • Logo of faith organisation in their advertising to signal institutional support
  • Name of leadership person(s) who will introduce the speaker
  • Contact details of a person within the organisation to follow up
  • Request that they use the following bystander intervention readings: John 8 : 1-11 Woman caught in adultery 2 Samuel 12 : Nathan rebukes David
  • It is our expectation that leadership must stay for the  whole event
  • How long has been allotted to speak?
  • What strategy does the leadership have to pastorally care for individuals who are hostile to the topic
  • Are they considering running a bystander intervention workshop as a follow up
  • Forward this statement to them to print in their newsheet – have a hard of the statement on the day of the event

Think Prevent is a community leader in violence prevention. Think Prevent conducts training sessions with a wide-range of groups, and utilises an active bystander approach to prevent violence against women. For more information visit our  The focus of  the  [date] is how to prevent violence against women before it starts. We know that 1 in 3 women between the ages of 15 and 45 have experienced violence. This means that in any given group of people, there are often multiple people who have personal experience either directly or indirectly with domestic violence. If anyone has had personal experience of domestic violence directly or indirectly and needs to take a break during the sermon then please do.

During the event:

  • Keep to time limit
  • Keep to the scripted homily
  • Keep your tone light and friendly
  • Watch your body language. If you maintain an open posture, smile, and make direct eye contact with people, it invites good communication
  • At the end of your presentation thank the community for their participation and let them know that you will be available if you have any questions or responses at the break

After the event:

  • Do not put yourself in a dangerous position. Do not confront the hostile person
  • Do not forget your own needs. Disclosures and hostility will be stressful for you. Discuss the situation with the Program Director
  • Refer to the case study below as an example of various interventions used to deal with disclosures and hostility
  • If there have been any disclosures or conflict that has arisen during the event, write this up in an email and forward this to the Program Director:
  • Provide the Program Director with contact details of the person within the organisation to follow up

Case study

Dear ####

4 women reported to me abuse after the service – 2 historical and  2 present.  A son abusing his mother and a member of the congregation reporting a suspected abuse case in the congregation and wanting a referral

So here are crisis referral options

And a process for managing disclosures.

Just to communicate there were a number of objections at the 8 o’clock service to my sermon. They were:

  1. The focus on violence against women. This triggered off loud protests by one member of your congregation saying ‘what about violence toward men.’ I managed the objection by:  citing stats, that most men are not perpetrators;  that some are victims, that violence is not acceptable under any circumstance and that men are working in this space as empowered bystanders

A number of men came up to me afterwards apologising. I suggested that they instead get alongside this man and so they talked to him at morning tea.

I then spoke to Adam, the leader of the 10 o’clock service to request that he let the members of the congregation know that today’s message was a focus on violence against women and that if anyone wanted to take a short break that this was fine. Adam said that while he had a personal problem with this he would clear a path to allow the message to be heard. And it was well received.

  1.  This focus on a single issue; not seen by 3 men as appropriate or relevant to the gospel. I suggested they read Isaiah 58. I was also thanked by one saying “he couldn’t remember the last time anyone talked so frankly about a real issue at St Paul’s.” He assured me that he would work with Althea to promote the June Active Bystander workshop

Lets talk closer to the time about how to advertise the workshop in your setting and having leadership in place to clear the path.

Kind regards, Ree