7 Healthy Ways To Resolve Conflict At Church

Conflict happens everywhere: in families, in churches, at work, and in communities. But unresolved conflict is a serious danger. Left unchecked, small conflicts can easily grow, become entrenched, and evolve into factions. And like a small fire, these conflicts can engulf your church. 

As a leader, it’s crucial to address the conflict head-on. Here are seven ways to address and resolve conflict:

 

1. Pray

It is almost impossible to stay angry with someone you pray for. Prayer can also give you empathy for the person. And ultimately, prayer places you both firmly at the foot of the cross in need of forgiveness.

We need hearts focused on God and His glory to not feel threatened by owning our own part of the conflict. Prayer encourages us, strengthens us, and gives us a good starting point for our conversations.

 

2. Be Direct

Often conflict can be mishandled because we talk about someone instead of to someone. Jesus was clear on how to handle conflict. He commanded us to talk to the person you have the problem with directly. 

Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

 

3. Be Specific 

Giving one or two specific incidents is much better than making generalized accusations. “Last week in the meeting” or “In your email yesterday” is much more helpful than “You always seem so annoyed.”

The more specific you are in your conversation about the problem, and not the person, the more you de-escalate conflict and move toward a hopeful ending.

 

4. Explain Instead of Blame

Figuring out how to talk to the person you’re struggling with is important. The most common reason those conversations go sideways is that people begin with blame. 

Don’t blame. Explain. Instead of saying “always” or “never,” begin by discussing how you experience the problem. 

If you’re dealing with problems of gossip, try saying something like: 

“Kyle, on Tuesday when you told me what happened to Greg, I felt like that was something Greg should have told me directly.”

Do you see the difference between explaining and blaming? It opens a dialogue without attacking the other person.

 

5. Reassure Them You Want Things To Get Better 

By its nature, conflict is focused on the past. Without a vision for an antagonism-free future, the conflict will continue to play itself out. 

A good peacemaking pastor will help people in conflict lift their gaze and focus on the future that both parties truly desire. What both parties need is hope. Let them know the gifts they bring to the table and the value they have. Encourage them that you are looking forward to the future and want things to work out.

As a leader, you should remind the parties who they are in Christ and what is at stake in this drama. They need to remember that as believers, we pray that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. And our responsibility is to work towards that “heaven on earth” peace.

 

6. Exercise Forgiveness

Unresolved conflict can be the result of a lack of forgiveness. The Bible is very clear about our responsibility to forgive others when we are wronged and do our part to find reconciliation.

“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3

Throughout the Bible, we are told to follow Jesus’ example of loving others well. Part of loving others means forgiving them when they have wronged us. As Christians, the best way we can show we are Christ-followers is to extend forgiveness – even when it is difficult.

 

7. Celebrate resolution

Satan desires to stir up conflict and disharmony. Every time he is unable to do so is a cause for celebration. 

If you and others can negotiate conflict’s minefield, you need to recognize what was averted. You could celebrate the thwarting of the devil’s plans with a card and congratulate them on a job well done.