Conflict… does that bring up some memories for ya? If you’ve been in ministry for more than five minutes, then yeah… probably so.

  • The parent who calls you to tell you that the TV show reference that you made during the rally service “isn’t appropriate” and shouldn’t have ever been uttered.
  • The volunteer youth worker who tries to start their own parachurch student ministry and is getting a head start by taking some of your student leaders without talking to you first.
  • The senior pastor who calls you up, upset that you forgot to reset the multipurpose room after your class last night. DOH!
  • The student who has a love-hate relationship with you… and, at least for now, things aren’t looking so good (and you don’t know why)!

Or how about taking it home… no conflict there, right? LOL! In a perfect world…

I’m definitely no expert on conflict, but I’ve had my share of experiences in walking through it. Every single one of those situations listed above are ones I’ve lived. A couple of things I’ve learned about conflict along the way…

  1. Deal with it quickly. Cut it off at the root before it goes any deeper and does more damage than it already has. If you value people — and that’s what ministry is about, right? … RIGHT?? …then, as hard as it may be, you need to confront and ask them “what the deal” is. There’s probably much better words to use than that, but you get the picture. Get the conversation started.
  2. Don’t automatically go on the defensive. I read this quote from my blogger-friend, Charles Lee, on Twitter today: “I respect leaders that aren’t immediately defensive when criticized. Their focus is betterment, not ego.” Wow! That says a lot, doesn’t it? A better approach going into a conflict resolution meeting is one of prayerful humility. You don’t ALWAYS have to be right, and guess what? You aren’t! Maybe that should be it’s own point…
  3. Ummm, yeah… You aren’t. …always right, I mean. Is your end result “to be right” or to see relationships healed, forgiveness released, and Jesus lifted up? End of point.
  4. Pray that truth will be revealed. Sometimes you go into these things not knowing the other side of the story. There are so many times that conflict happens — even big conflict — because one side has heard and believed an untruth about someone or something. Search for the truth and pray that it is revealed.
  5. Invite others in. For more than a couple reasons…
    1. It provides accountability, and that’s always a good thing.
    2. It provides protection if something goes wrong. I’m not talking about someone to lay the “smack down” or provide security protection; I mean someone who can be there to prevent the “he said, she said” stuff. If someone else is present during the interaction, they can later cover you when they say that “No, Shawn did not call you a ‘%$!*#@?’ I was there.”
    3. It provides outside insight, if needed (and wanted).

I’m sure there is much more that could be said, but I’m going to close by linking to this video by ICORVI Ministries (embedding is disabled on this one) that includes some good scripture references and provides some solid stick-figure action to boot.


Shawn Michael

Husband, father, musician, pastor, Internet junkie, and Foursquare District NextGen Rep for the Gateway District