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Monday, August 08, 2005

Seven Ways Pastors Can Deal with Conflict

Joel Blaylock has a great article that was just posted over at Lifeway.com that talks about how pastors deal with conflict.  Isn't it true that conflict seems to arise out of the most unexpected areas?  I've often said that the harder I try not to offend someone, the easier they get offended!  Joel has some great tidbits of advice to help you get on top on conflict and tackle it before it gets out of control.  Joel writes:

FOR DISCUSSION:  If your in church ministry, then there is NO DOUBT that you have had to deal with conflict.  Which of the above do you use most often to help you keep conflict at bay?  I'd love to hear your experiences and advice today.  Anything you would add to the list as helpful hints to others?

1. Confront the person or issue directly or honestly.
Nothing is worse than letting an issue simmer until it boils over into the entire church. Go directly to the person causing the conflict and seek to resolve it. If you can make concessions while still honoring Christ, do so, if this will settle the issue. The Bible offers a plan in Matthew 18:15-17. Follow it.

2. Don't go looking for trouble.
Let sleeping dogs lie. Don't fix it if it isn't broken. Proverbs 3:30 wisely says "Do not accuse a man for no reason -- when he has done you no harm.''

3. Delegate if you know you cannot be successful.
If you anticipate trouble with a particular family or individual, ask another person you trust to work with them. Pastors and deacons need each other. Use one another's skills to avoid trouble. Moses needed the direction of his father-in-law Jethro to keep from overloading his plate with the many decisions the people of God faced in the wilderness, and so do you. Read Exodus 18:1-27 to see how God blessed this delegation of duties.

4. Agree with the person if at all possible.
When you make a mistake, promptly admit it. It is better to trust the outcome to God than to deny our error when it is evident for everyone to see. In Matthew 5:25, Jesus directed us to: "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison."

5. Mediate the issue.
Mediation means we involve a third person to help settle the matter. A good mediator asks each side to suggest what they need to resolve the issue. After listening to both sides, the mediator then suggests a compromise position that both sides can accept.

6. Take the issue to the Lord and leave it there.
Some people cannot be satisfied unless they destroy others or they feel they have totally won the argument. Don't go there with those people. Sometimes the only person who really understands our side is Jesus. If the issue still troubles you, continue praying about it and ask God to make it a non-issue for you.

7. Ask God to get involved in a supernatural way.
Every area of strife is a spiritual problem. While you can't resolve the issue for others, you can settle it for yourself. No problem can be totally separate from the spiritual issue that accompanies it. Ask God to work behind the scenes. Admit faults of your own that you cannot see. In every situation, we must trust God to be the one who finally settles issues in the local church and in our lives.

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August 8, 2005 in Church Conflict | Permalink

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As a Pastor in a large church who oversee's close to 200 small groups, I have had to deal with more than my share of conflict. I not only teach Matthew 18:15-17 during leader training, I reteach it to leaders via email three to four times a year, every year. I have never had a conflict where I had to look back on it and wonder if what I had done was right when I followed Jesus' example in Matthew. That doesn't mean that every conflict ended without someone angry or hurt, it just means that when you follow Jesus' example and you do it with love, you hanlded it right no matter how it ends up.

Posted by: John | Aug 8, 2005 11:07:16 AM

I really enjoyed this article. I have one question- In the 7th way to resolve conflict it says,"Admit faults of your own that you cannot see." What does this mean? How can you admit faults that you cannot see?

Posted by: Jarrod | Aug 8, 2005 1:07:14 PM

Jarrod said what does this mean,

"Admit faults of your own that you cannot see."

I think it's refering to confessing one's character flaws even if you don't think of them as character flaws.

For instance, You might be very independent and want to work alone and/or run the opperation of a particular assignment. This character trait though viewed as a strength in your mind could be a weakness if the assignment requires more than one person for the task. In this case the natural instinct to work alone causes conflict within the group dynamic because the task rquires team cooperation. Often you will see this occur when two individuals have a leadership/independant character trait and want to do things on their own or want to decide how things are done.

Posted by: Pete King | Aug 8, 2005 3:32:19 PM

Good thoughts. I have always believed that most conflict issues go away simply by listening intently. WEhen the other person feels heard and respected, even in disagreement, at least there is some resolution.
Question - How do you deal with conflict when the other party plays dirty?

Posted by: David | Aug 8, 2005 3:47:04 PM

I think point 1 is very simple and very deep. Matt. 18, I think, is key. It also takes a lot of guts (spiritual maturity, too)! Any coward can ignore facing an issue, and rather gossip or gloss over it. Gossip will start a raging fire, and glossing over it will allow the "cancer" to spread.


Posted by: bernie dehler | Aug 8, 2005 4:57:42 PM


If it goes beyond the scope of disagreeing on how things are done to actions that violate scripture then this issue no longer is about cooperation but about yielding to selfish desires. That's when it falls into the realm of Matthew 18:15-17. Of course those witnesses need to be individuals who have witnessed the behaviour not someone who will simply agree with your point of view. Depending on the nature of the act things can be reconciled.

Posted by: Pete King | Aug 8, 2005 5:31:13 PM

How do you handle a habitually late person every day to work, but excuses themselves. The owner is not in on time either. I am supposedly the office manager, but don't have clout to change the matter. Do I squeel on the individual to the owner? I really could use some help with this matter, it's eating at me...thanks.

Posted by: Rita | Aug 8, 2005 7:10:21 PM

Matthew 18 is the only way to handle problem people in the church.

Posted by: Tally | Aug 8, 2005 7:53:33 PM


"How do you handle a habitually late person every day to work, but excuses themselves."

It's off topic a bit, maybe, but I feel for you...

I had a situation like that where in a small company of 6 people, I was the only one "on time". I had to come to grips with the fact that the company (including the owner) had a different definition of "on time" than I did. But I didn't change my habit of coming in in a timely fashion.

I mentioned it to my boss, as if it wasn't a problem, just something I noticed, and everything was cool. But nobody's behavior changed... including me.

And I would never squeal. That ends up hurting you more than the person you squeal on.

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Aug 8, 2005 10:35:32 PM

Hi Rita-

Does the person's lateness affect your work? If so, it's not squealing to let them know directly (Matt 18) that it's affecting your work. If they don't fix it, then you can tell your boss of your concern. As office manager, you can let your boss know of the top 5 problems that you'd like to see worked on. It doesn't have to be personal.

Instead of saying "When you're late, it upsets me!" you can say "when you're late, no one is here to answer the phone (example), and I have to drop what I'm doing to cover for you, which sets me back on my workload."


Posted by: bernie dehler | Aug 8, 2005 11:23:30 PM

I think there should be a number 8 which was demonstrated by Joseph when he found himself in conflict with Potiphar's wife - RUN!

Posted by: 1Shepherd | Aug 9, 2005 7:05:14 AM

Avoiding conflict first is the point of the excellent article, and a pre-emptive way of learning about it is great!

In a very nasty church conflict I was in, another pastor gave me the name of an excellent book. I'll tell you how he began the converstaion in a second, but the book is called, "Generation to Generation." Written by a Rabbi is Washington D.C., who counsels rabbis, pastors, priests, nuns and other counselors (!) his advice and experience are brilliant.

The pastor said to me, "Are they saying that you don't listen?" I asked him if he were listening in at board meetings! He told me it was classic, gave me the book name, and insight began to dawn.


Posted by: William Simkiss | Aug 9, 2005 9:05:49 AM

Thank you Joel! Far too many problems in the church stem from our inability to put self aside, and our refusal to consider that the problem is not always "the other guy".
If we can just remember that there is none perfect but the Father, if we would just learn to forbear one another and forgive one another, the church would finally be the great organism it was meant to be.

Posted by: harold | Aug 9, 2005 9:54:34 AM

I guess the situations I have seen in our church may be different than that which most of you speak of. But I am very involved in a small bible teaching church and when conflict develops, such as a congregants not having things the way they want it or even in a few cases - leadership not getting their way, they simply pack up and leave the church and go some place else. They don't seem to want to adhere to the principals outlined in Matt 18 nor does anyone want to tolerate church discipline very much these days. I find it quite interesting to see. And this is not only our church but we recieve new people all the time that are transplants from some other church for various reasons that come wrapped up in pretty package that later reads - they were hurt at their last church. I seems to be a trend that people are not sitting still and putting their pride aside, but instead because their are soooo many other churches to choose from - they just leave and go some place else where they may not have to be told - No.

Posted by: Toni | Aug 9, 2005 2:20:50 PM

I was candidating for one church that had a family feud going on over something that brought the former pastor to resign and move on after t10 years. The interim pastor came in and within two weeks disbanded the deacons and took all church responsibility on himself. The church is a small rural community work and I questioned his wisdom for doing this, but the church allowed it so perhaps it will work its self out. I don't know if he ever did deal with the issues.
Rev Jay

Posted by: Rev Jay | Aug 9, 2005 2:24:56 PM

Hey Toni-- right with you.... exactly, people now just bolt-- leave the mess they might have even started and bring baggage to a new joint.

# 8 should be this: If things haven't been settled to your expectations-- you have 2 options. 1. See ya
2. See ya

There is no way that continuing to address same conflict, same people makes sense. Some people will never be happy!


Posted by: Don Solin | Aug 9, 2005 4:23:03 PM

Yes! the moment I read about 7 ways Pastor can deal a conflict, I agreed in your biblical stand and opinion. In fact I tried this formula 4 years ago and then I saw it is really working.

Thanks for sending it to my e-mail. I just keep on remembering my past ministry service to my church member.

May God bless you more.

In Christ,
Rev. Joseph A. Sta. Ana

Posted by: Rev. Joseph A. Sta. Ana | Aug 18, 2005 3:06:53 AM

Dealing with conflict requires Maturity in Scripture and usually it is the weaker brother in the Word that has major problems. This is why proper discipleship with Sound Doctrine is vital to Church Growth.

Posted by: BeHim | Aug 20, 2005 12:54:50 PM

I have a major conflict within my church I am the Pastor of a new Church I also founded the Church My problem comes from my husband we have been married for 7 years. I started preaching almost immediately after we got married we had already discussed all of this. I started Pastoring, this is my second year. He came from a church background that a woman is not suppose to preach or Pastor, Some of you may feel the same way. During our whole marriage he have abused me mentally,verbally,and emotionally. I haven't done anything for him to be mean and curel and yes he's an ordained Deacon that he been for over 20 years. everyone thinks he's a good man. Please give me your feedBack.

Posted by: Maxine Brown | Aug 30, 2005 9:45:11 PM

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