During a routine ministry meeting, I expressed my opinion on a particular topic relevant to our forum. “Whoa!” said one of the members. “I’m not sure I agree with that.”
This began a lengthy discussion, with heated exchanges on both sides. At the end of the meeting, I felt awkward and nervous about the conversation, afraid that this would be the last time she’d come to a meeting. But you know what happened?
We walked away as friends. And she came back the following week.
When I spoke with her the following week, I wanted to make sure not only that she did not walk away angry at the altercation but that we were OK as friends. Although I never changed my mind about my theology (nor did she), I let her know that I still loved her even though we disagreed.
Churches shy away from conflict because it is challenging to experience and even harder to resolve. Sometimes when two spiritually mature Christians enter into contention, they can come to a resolution, with both reputations (and examples for Christ) intact. But to do that, leaders must handle conflict swiftly and thoroughly. But how do you do that?
Here are some tips on how to deal with conflict in an effective way:
Nip it in the bud
If you do not nip conflict in the bud immediately, it will snowball and suffocate you in the end. It is not a matter of if, but when, the conflict will come to a head. If you perceive a problem, set aside time to meet with that person/persons individually. Allow them to speak their minds regarding their perspectives on the issue. Remember, both parties have their versions of the truth; it is your job as a leader to hear both sides and reach a solution the best way possible.
One or more parties may not agree with the outcome, but resolving conflict does not mean making everyone happy. The resolution comes with doing what is right, dealing with the issue, and both parties with the same level of grace and mercy as Jesus would if He were present. After all, we are to be His ambassadors, which means we act like Him in both the good experiences and the bad.
Get a mediator
If you are the one in conflict who finds you disagree with someone, try your best to resolve it. If you can’t fix it, ask a third party to act as a mediator between you and the other person. Make sure you choose someone who can look at the situation without bias or judgment. A pastor or other leader who can look at the situation objectively is your best bet. Placing the resolution in someone else’s hands is sometimes the most diplomatic step you can take.
Be cautious, however: if you place the situation in someone’s hands, it also means you have to put the solution there as well. You may not like the resolution. Make sure you trust the person you are allowing to mediate the conflict.
Confronting others out of love shows your servant attitude towards relationships.
Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (NIV).
There is no other way to resolve conflict effectively than meeting with that person face-to-face.
Emails and other forms of written communication can be misconstrued and misinterpreted based on the other’s past experiences. Although challenging, a face-to-face meeting acknowledges the person and their concerns.
It says to those involved, “I value you and what you are about to say.” If nothing else, your goal, other than to reach a resolution, is to leave each party involved feeling valued, heard, and their feelings validated.