There is no such thing as a church without conflict. If your church has a conflict, that is something to be thankful for! Conflict means that people are engaged in the life of the church and that they have interests they care about. It is healthy for a church to acknowledge that it has some conflict, for then the causes of conflict can be brought to light and addressed, hopefully in a way that leaves people feeling like they have a better understanding of each other, of each other’s goals, and happy about the end result.
Indeed, the goal of peacemaking in a congregation is not to snuff out conflict and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Nor is it to go to war to route out various factions. In between these two options is a middle ground.
Conflict, 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 to hone and improve its mission and focus. 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 is not simply to achieve a level of comfort by putting a lid on conflict. 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.
In the meantime, how to do achieve such an idealistic result? Is it possible? 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? If you feel your congregation may need help dealing with the effects of conflict, this blog post may help you decide whether to bring in outside help.
Reactions to conflict proceed in predictable stages. A prior article on this site described various stages of conflict (link here). At low levels, conflict is healthy. It means people are involved in the church and have projects they care about. If conflict is not handled appropriately, however, it can become toxic and lead to division in the church.
Conflict handled poorly causes needless pain and alienation from the church. 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 sheep that has been lost from the flock. When a congregation contacts Just Mediation, a team of committed Believers who are experts in conflict transformation is 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, 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 equipped to conduct full scale, congregational mediations when needed. All team members of Just Mediation’s Christian Conflict Transformation service are ordained as pastors, elders, or deacons, are active personally or professionally in their local congregations, practice as professional or volunteer mediators, have additional training specifically in mediation of churchwide congregational disputes, and have in fact worked professionally as mediators in church congregational such disputes.
For more information, for a consultation, or to arrange for a speaker for your group, meeting, or retreat, call 803-414-0185.