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Handling Conflict in Your Congregation

What is the role of conflict resolution within a congregation? This collection equips faith leaders with an understanding of conflict in a congregation, along with tools for managing conflict effectively within a religious setting.


5 Resources
Avoiding All-Out Church War
This pack of eight articles educates readers about conflict and how to mitigate it in a...
Conflict in Congregations Special Report
This report by the Center for Congregations provides an overview of inevitable congregational...
Handling Conflict
This thorough resource, covering 12 different aspects of conflict, identifies negative and...
Lombard Mennonite Peace Center (LMPC)
This organization offers hands-on training clinics and onsite consulting for nonviolent...
What To Do When… A Fight Breaks Out
These two video discussions suggest how to avoid congregational conflict and what to do when...

Guest Contributor

Aaron Spiegel

Aaron is a rabbi, author, and president of the Synagogue Studies Institute. He formerly directed the CRG and information technology at the Center for Congregations.

Church Conflict Resolution

People are naturally going to find themselves having disagreements with one another from time to time. This can be seen as simply a reality of being human, in addition to being a religious leader. Therefore, if leaders are realizing that there are conflicts taking place in their congregation, it may be a good idea for leaders to try and focus on conflict resolution and how they can help bring disagreements to a respectful end. Even though there are a lot of ways to resolve a conflict, perhaps the worst thing a person can do is ignore it. If they simply ignore the fact that a conflict is taking place, then it is likely going to continue to be able to fester and build. Eventually, it may even serve to take other parts of the congregation down with it. Therefore, it can be a good idea to focus on church conflict resolution.

When trying to think about ways to evoke conflict resolution in the church, it might be helpful to look at books and sacred texts. There are plenty of examples of conflict in the Bible and other religious texts. Ultimately, it can be good to remember that nobody is perfect. It might help for religious leaders to focus on their role as the head of the group, making sure to point to some key instances of conflict in sacred texts as a guide for how to resolve. Then, they can let their staff members and congregation know that conflicts are okay, as long as we work to resolve them amicably.

For all of these reasons, it can be good for religious leaders to focus on ways that they can manage conflicts that may be taking place in their religious group from time to time. Not everyone is going to get along with each other all the time - and that is okay! Leaders may simply have to learn about the various ways they can work to help manage conflicts so that they do not take the rest of the congregation down with them.

Conflict Management In The Church

If religious leaders find themselves thinking about ways that they can assist with conflict management in the church, it may prove to be a good idea to take a look at useful resources. That way, they can take a good closer look at how conflicts were able to be successfully resolved in the past. It might also be a good idea to set up conflict handling and resolution procedures in the church. That way, the members of the congregation will be able to know exactly how conflicts should be handled as they arise. Furthermore, members of the leadership staff can also take a closer look at these procedures, therefore allowing them to help better manage conflicts as well.

When it comes to conflict management in the church, there are perhaps several key tips to keep in mind. First, it can be good to expect that conflict is going to happen and that disagreements are natural. They are simply going to happen from time to time. This does not necessarily mean that religious leaders have to accept that conflicts are going to happen forever, however. They simply have to accept that disagreement is going to arise sometimes between two or more people. Once they are able to accept that conflict is going to happen, they will then be able to begin working to resolve it. If they do not acknowledge that conflicts are taking place, though, then they are not likely going to be able to put a stop to them.

Next, one goal of a religious leader is likely going to be the ability to represent a common force, and able to listen to both sides of an argument, making sure that they have an understanding of what is taking place. Then, they can intervene to let all parties involved know that there is a way to resolve this peacefully. When leaders are able to actively listen to what is going on in the group, this will help to place themselves in the position to diffuse it. Ultimately, that is likely going to be the best way for them to handle conflicts as a religious leader. It is often their role to bring these disagreements to an end in a way that is acceptable to all parties involved.

Types of Church Conflict

There are multiple types of church conflict, and in this case, religious leaders may even want to take a look at types of church conflict PDFs so that they can learn more. Remember that there is also conflict that takes place in religious scripture - and so, leaders may find themselves wanting to turn to these sources in order to learn more about conflict, as well.

Ultimately, one of the most common types of conflict that may take place in the church revolves around facts. This means that two parties may have a disagreement regarding the facts of the situation. For example, one person may claim that the church budget has decreased in the past 12 months, while another person may claim that the expenses have simply gone up. This type of conflict is relatively common, and it can be immensely helpful for religious leaders to be able to step in and help manage the budget properly.

The next common type of church conflict can revolve around the goals of the church. This can prove to be a difficult sort of conflict to resolve, because the goals of the church may not always be objective. Two people may have very different ideas regarding where the church should go next. For example, how should the church reach out to underprivileged members of the community? What is the goal that the congregation should have in mind? Two members of the group may disagree on this, even if their hearts are both equally in the right place.

Finally, another type of disagreement often revolves around values. The values refer to the foundation upon which the congregation has been built, and it can be good for religious leaders to take a look at the values of the organization and make sure that they themselves model these values for members of the leadership staff, as well as members of the congregation. If two members of the leadership staff are disagreeing over the values of the church, then it may be time for religious leaders to step in and see if this conflict can be resolved amicably.

The Role Of The Church In Conflict Resolution

It might be worth taking a closer look at the role of the church in conflict resolution. Many people are going to turn to the church to help them resolve conflicts. This can include not only members of the congregation, but members of the leadership staff as well. Oftentimes, the first step in resolving a conflict is to identify that a conflict is actively taking place. There can be several common causes of conflict in the early days of a congregation, such as a disagreement on how to spend money, disagreement on how to reach out to members of the community, and disagreement on what the first few sermons should focus on. Once religious leaders are able to identify some indicators of conflict in the church, however, it might then be able to become a priority to try and resolve the conflict amicably.

Ultimately, one of the key things for religious leaders to remember is that they will likely need to listen to both sides of the argument. The head of the church is supposed to be a neutral party in these disagreements, and therefore, it can be incredibly helpful to take an objective view regarding the conflict. Then, they can discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each individual point of view. This way, it might be possible to bring all parties involved to the table, so that the conflict can then be discussed in a productive manner. This might stand to be the fastest way to resolve conflicts in the church.

Church Conflict Resolution Policy

If religious leaders are looking for ways to prevent conflicts from taking place, it may be good to set up a church conflict resolution policy, a term which refers to a set of rules and regulations that discuss the church’s daily operations, and what to do if a conflict arises in the church.

When building this policy, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at examples via a church conflict PDF. When the congregation has a church conflict management policy and procedure book in place, then it very well may find that instances of conflict and disagreement become fewer and farther between. There are plenty of religious leaders who may be wondering where they should look for assistance in creating this type of procedure book, to which it might be a good idea to reach out to religious leaders with other organizations so that they can potentially take a look at what they have included in their own policy and procedure book.

After this, leaders may consider taking some of these ideas and including them in their own church conflict resolution policy. All of this can go a long way toward limiting the development of conflicts in the church going forward. And even though not all conflicts can be avoided, it is still possible to reduce their frequency by having a strong church conflict resolution policy in place.

Church Conflict Management

Ultimately, conflict management can be useful for congregations of all types. It may be good to remember, though, that conflicts are naturally going to arise from time to time. There is nothing wrong with accepting conflicts; however, it can be necessary for leadership to find a way to resolve them peacefully. That is the importance of church conflict management. Remember, the role of religion in peace and conflict resolution is significant - and therefore, it might also be a good idea to turn to outside resources for help with church conflict management and resolution, from time to time.

For instance, leaders may want to take a look at what other religious organizations have done to successfully help manage conflicts. Or, they may even want to attend a conference that will help them to build their own conflict resolution skills. If they are able to focus on resolving conflicts in their congregation, then they will be helping to place them in a position to be successful. When in doubt, of course, it may always be good to remember to turn to sacred religious texts for assistance. There are countless examples of conflicts that take place in the Bible and other texts - and if leaders take a good look at these passages, they may be able to use them as a source of inspiration.

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