5 Guidelines for Conflict Resolution

Conflict is no stranger within the local church. Different opinions, diverse perspectives, and opposing priorities can cause your best leaders and staff to experience conflict with each other. This is normal and virtually unavoidable amongst leaders. Leaders cause motion and motion causes friction!

The goal is not to practice avoiding conflict, instead we all need to become good at resolving conflict.

In order to be good at conflict resolution, the first step is to know the primary internal causes. When we understand what causes conflict, we can begin to recognize and deal with it before it gets the best of us.

7 primary internal causes of conflict:

  1. Immaturity
  2. Self-Centeredness
  3. Insecurity
  4. Pride
  5. Controlling nature
  6. Fear (Fear of loneliness, rejection, abandonment, being manipulated etc.)
  7. Broken trust

The bottom line is that conflict emerges when we don’t get what we want.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

James 4:1-2

We all wrestle with some of these internal causes that lead to the more visible expressions of conflict.

7 primary external causes of team conflict:

  1. Unhealthy culture
  2. Unclear or misaligned vision
  3. Lack of communication
  4. Unclear expectations
  5. Territorial attitudes
  6. Unhealthy competition
  7. Ineffective systems and processes

5 Guidelines to Conflict Resolution:

1) Give the benefit of the doubt.

My personal frame of reference is that our staff is made up of really smart people who are committed to the vision and work hard to do the right thing. So when something seems odd my first reaction is to assume the best. When I choose to give the benefit of the doubt and seek to understand, it’s amazing how quickly conflict dissipates.

2) Extend trust.

Your teammates need to earn your respect, but it’s important that you give them trust up front. If and when they violate that trust, that’s a different story, but until then operate in an environment of mutual trust.

3) Get the issue out on the table.

Don’t hold back. Polite harmony never advances the vision or accomplishes meaningful success. If there is a problem, get it on the table. Be candid, speak truth, but do so with kindness and honor. Seek to understand, listen carefully, and find common ground within the vision.

4) Set your agenda aside.

James 4:2 is a truth we can’t escape. We get upset when we don’t get what we want. Maybe it’s a bigger budget, or more staff, or greater recognition… and the list goes on. The Devil loves it when we fight like that. However, when we rise above our own agenda, personal ambition, and seek the best for others and the church overall, everyone wins!

5) Forgive and move on.

It doesn’t always work out happily-ever-after. Sometimes people are hurt and it takes time to heal. Forgiveness is a critical part of any healthy staff. It may take time and God’s peace to help you through the process. But in the end, restoration needs to be realized so that you may continue to model the kind of relationships that honor God.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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