Last year, in a blog titled the 5 stages of a worship team, I talked a little about my experience leading a team. The group started well with a promising trajectory, but closed out prematurely in the storming stage. Unfortunately, slander was a major factor in the demise of the group.

We all have endured the painful sting of gossip and we too have maligned others. As I have reflected on the effects gossip has on individuals and groups, whether we are the perpetrators or recipients, the outcome is the same; slander destroys both the hearer and the slanderer alike.

The bible is clear about what kind of talk should be avoided “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” {Ephesians 4:29}

But what should we do the next time someone is disgruntled about a team member and wants to air their frustration to you?

1) Validate

Years back, I watched a TED Talk by one of Africa’s most celebrated writers- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her talk was on the danger of a single story. While I may not agree with everything she stands for, I loved one of the quotes from this particular talk:

“…Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

The bible also has great wisdom concerning a one sided story “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” {Proverbs 18:17}

You have probably been in a situation where someone told you something from their point of view, but upon listening to the other party, found out that what the first person had to say was not entirely true. This is the danger of a single story. However, we ought to validate accusations brought against other individuals. One way to do this is to ask. Ask the aggrieved individual questions that would shed light on the matter. If you can, request to talk to the other party so as to have the full story.

2) Mediate

The work of the cross is the greatest display of reconciliation. Following Christ’s example, we ought to look for ways to bring unity into areas of division in our teams and relationships. Matthew 18:15 gives us solid advice on how to quell slander. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  There are circumstances in which someone may seek out your help in resolving a matter with another team member. You as the mediator have the sole responsibility of keeping the issue confidential so as to avoid gossip. Just between the aggrieved parties, find a way to bring peace into that situation.

3) Deviate

Years back, I attended a school that was facing major financial and administrative issues. Balls were dropped, causing many students to be unhappy. One such unhappy student approached me with these issues, and within no time, I who loved this school, was embittered and had joined a group of complainers. We would stand around in circles at break discussing how terrible the school was, instead of escalating the issue to relevant people who could address the problems.

In that moment, Proverbs 18:8 described me: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” Not only did I choose to let gossip embitter me, I allowed it to steal the joy and love I once felt being a part of this community.

In retrospect, I should have referred this student to someone in a position of authority who could handle the valid issues brought up.

I believe that every worship team should have systems to allow the members to air their grievances respectfully. I also encourage every leader to foster openness in their team. Let us reject the temptation to accuse and slander others, especially when we have been hurt. We are all on a journey of sanctification, one that includes our speech. Therefore let us validate, mediate and deviate. I would like to hear from you. Has slander ever affected your team, and how did you navigate through it?