How to handle church conflict

Posted: October 16, 2014 by efenster in Ideas, Information
Tags: , , ,

Unknown-1I recently had a pastor ask me for tips on how to deal with church conflict.  Here are five things that came to mind…

  1. Where there are two or more present, there will be conflict; it’s normal.  How we deal with it is the key.
  2. Acknowledging and dealing with conflict is an act of love.  If we didn’t love those involved, we wouldn’t care and would just shrug it off.
  3. Dealing with people face-to-face, rather than behind their backs, is essential (Matthew 18:15-17).  In order to get a congregation to communicate in such a way, some churches are using church covenants that include things like—we take our concerns to the person, rather than going to someone else (triangulating); we don’t deal with anonymous comments or complaints; we can disagree when discussing issues in committees, but once our group makes its decision we publicly support it 100%.
  4. In order to deal with conflict in a healthy way, we must trust those involved (See The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni); so how can we build trust?  By spending time together, listening to each other’s stories, creating a safe place.
  5. Dan Moseley, pastor, writer, and professor at Christian Theological Seminary, says that helping people learn to grieve is a fundamental element in helping people deal with conflict.  They need to be asked, “What is it that you’re afraid to lose?”  This helps them articulate what’s behind their grief and it helps them discover that they’re not alone, that others are losing something too, even those who hold an opposing view.  Part of the role of the pastor is to create a safe place where this conversation can happen, and to be vulnerable by honestly sharing themselves; otherwise, others won’t open up and be vulnerable.

What would you add?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

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