Intervention in Church Conflict

Every organization has conflict.  The big question is, how will you handle it?  Will be conflict be channeled constructively, to respond to changes and improve communication and relationships, or will conflict degenerate into toxic and fractured relationships and power struggles within the organization?    When churches consider the cost of intervention, they should measure this against the cost of not intervening.  Early intervention may prevent fractured relationships and divided congregations.

This web site is the home page of a team of Christian Peacemakers who use our  gifts in communication, and our skills as professional mediators, to help strengthen churches.  We conduct trainings in healthy conflict management for church leaders, and we also actively intervene as consultants and mediators in conflicted church situations.   Our aim is to restore the health of your church, so that swords will be put away and pounded into plowshares, so that your church body can return to its true calling, which is to plow the soil of building God’s kingdom.   If you’d like to learn more about healthy conflict resolution for congregations, please continue browsing through numerous articles in this web site, and also fill out the form on this page.

Conflict at its lowest levels on engagement, if managed well, is actually a way to keep the church healthy.  Just as a whet stone rubbing against a knife can sharpen the knife, the rubbing of conflicting interests in a church provides many opportunities for the church members to be in communication and debate, and to sharpen and clarify the mission and focus of the congregation.  Conflict enables us to communicate, to discuss differences and similarities, to really listen to and hear each other, and to forge solutions which meet the needs of the congregation without harming each other and which actually lead to healing and reconciliation.  The goal of good conflict management is not simply to achieve a level of comfort by putting a lid on conflict and pretending it doesn’t exist!   Rather, the goal is for conflict to result in improved communication, airing of interests, and good decisions that account for the needs of all.  Thus,   conflict transformation enables the church body to transform friction into an opportunity for increased understanding, growth, and healing.

Is this realistic, you ask?  In one word: yes!  If conflict is dealt with appropriately.  Conflict in a church is like a flame.  It can feel like a nice, warm campfire –  nicely contained in the fireplace and providing enough heat to fuel the popcorn popper — or it can feel like a house fire raging and destroying the entire structure.  Obviously, it is easier to tend the fire when it has not blazed out of control.

Where is your church conflict on the scale of conflict?  An article on this web site HERE may help you discern this.  At low levels, training for church leaders in healthy conflict management acts like a vaccination against toxic conflict.  Increasingly more hostile conflict requires different strategies.  Ignoring a problem (or waiting until the “other faction” leaves the church) doesn’t make the problem go away, however.   Rather, it is a failure of ministry, a failure to bear witness to the transformative power of God’s word and promises.  How many “unchurched” people, or those who label themselves as “spiritual but not religious” have actually left the church on account of poorly managed conflict?  One can guess, a lot.   A statistic by the Alban Institute indicates that a significant number of  unchurched  people in the USA say they are Christian, but they report that they no longer attend church because of some “painful event”.

The goal of Just Mediation is to stop that from happening!  We are concerned for the entire flock.   When a congregation contacts Just Mediation, a team of committed Believers who are experts in conflict transformation will be assembled to evaluate your particular congregational need and make a recommendation.  Our goal is to contribute to the health of the Body of Christ, by acting as professional peacemakers to help transform conflict from painful event to an opportunity for growth and learning among Believers.  Regardless of what level of conflict your congregation may be experiencing, the professional peacemakers of Just Mediation want to help you.  There are three main ways we can help:

1. Training and Education of Congregation and Congregational Leaders in Healthy Conflict Resolution Skills

Training and education of members and leaders in healthy methods of decision making and conflict resolution imparts helpful skill in tending the campfire.  If the fire is not already out of control, all it needs is to be cared for properly.

It is important that conflict associated with normal and natural transitions be addressed in ways that are healthy and healing, and not in ways that create more divides. When serious conflict does emerge, leaders need tools to respond to these challenges before they escalate into conflict that engages the entire community.  The mediators of Just Mediation, LLC, offer training in healthy, Biblical responses to conflict through on-site consultation, workshops, and leadership retreats.

We are happy to speak to your group and lead a workshop, whether for an hour or a weekend.  Training church members and leaders in conflict transformation skills can be viewed as akin to giving an innoculation to prevent illness from setting in.

2. Assessment and Recommendations in  Situations Involving Conflict

Ideally, conflict in faith-based organizations will be identified and addressed before it reaches a flashpoint of causing a crisis.  However, it can be helpful to have a fire extinguisher on hand.

No matter how positive it may be overall, change in culture and the worldview of members or leadership can create tension in the healthiest of organizations.  Or conversely, refusal to change may create stress.  Intervention at this stage of conflict can improve communication and help people adjust and work things out peaceably.

Perhaps your congregation doesn’t need full scale crisis intervention, but it would benefit from clear intervention, education, and minor mediation that would help your congregation navigate these tricky periods.

We would be happy to consult with your leadership team and engage in individual mediations or facilitation of group meetings to address important sources of conflict.  We can also impart these skills to leaders and congregants both by way of leading them through the process so they see the positive effects and by deliberate training events.

3. Crisis Management and Congregational Mediation for Highly Conflicted Congregations

If conflict is not addressed early, it can build to crisis levels.  Changes in leadership, building programs, worship innovations and capital campaigns often expose fault lines not apparent under normal circumstances.

Often these problems are ignored until these issues are out of control and have escalated into a major conflict.   Is the conflagration to the point where your congregation needs a fire truck and firefighters?  We can help with this, too.

The professional mediators of Just Mediation, LLC, (Alexandria Skinner, J.D., Beth Padgett, M.A., and Mark Buchan, M.A.) are equipped by training, experience, and calling, to intervene and guide in crisis laden situations and assist your church in healing from the inside out.  We are able to manage any level of mediation, ranging from conflict coaching for individuals to design and implementation of full scale congregational mediations for large congregations.  Although our work is confidential and therefore we do not reveal the names of congregations that have utilized our services, we are confident in our ability to help.

For more information, for a consultation, or to arrange for a speaker for your group, meeting, or retreat, call 803-414-0185.

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