3 Steps To Resolve Conflict On Your Church Staff
By: Tracey Smith November 2, 2015
As a child, I remember my parents taking the family on vacation. There were four kids in our family, which made for some interesting road trips. We would load up our ’76 baby blue Malibu Chevrolet Station Wagon with the rear reversible bench seat, and get ready for about a hundred “Are we there yet?”s. For the first hour and a half, all four of us kids would play nicely together and have a great time, but usually about two hours into the trip, the conflict would start. Inevitably, we would get in some territorial battle and end up fighting. Someone crossed the line, and then all four kids would get involved in the fight.
When we have relationships with other people, especially when we are in close proximity for a long period of time (like in a workplace), there will be times when someone crosses the line, steps on someone else’s toes, or simply doesn’t let them have their way. How do you create a healthy staff culture that understands the importance of conflict resolution and implement steps to resolve that conflict?
First, you must:
Realize that conflict is inevitable. Whenever there are two are more people in the workplace, there will eventually be conflict. Why? We are not perfect people.
Be prepared for conflict whenever it happens, and don’t be surprised or upset that it happened under your leadership.
Recognize the true source of conflict. Almost all conflict stems from one source: pride. When we don’t get our way or get our feelings hurt, we tend to dig in our heels and stand our ground. It’s helpful to recognize that conflict will show up in many different forms, but the true source will probably be someone’s pride getting hurt.
Remember that the goal is to restore the relationship and resolve the conflict. There’s a great quotation attributed to the Persian poet Rumi: “Out beyond right and wrong, there is a field. I will meet you there.” Remember that the goal isn’t to establish who was right and who was wrong. The goal is resolution and restoration of relationship.
Realize you cannot ignore the conflict. Do not just ignore conflict; you must handle it! Do not avoid it and think it will just go away. Trust me, it will not! So, how do you resolve the conflict?
In Matthew 18, Jesus talks about handling conflict and the appropriate steps to take. Here are 3 of those steps.
1. Go to the person privately and speak one-on-one.
It is important that on your church staff, you promote healthy and authentic communication within the work environment. When emotions have cooled a bit, schedule at time to sit down with the other person to discuss the conflict. It is during this first meeting that you want to achieve the following:
- Clarify the relationship. Let them know that no matter what the conflict is, you value them and value the relationship.
- Identify the issue. Be specific, and let them know that “this” (whatever caused the conflict in the first place) is the issue and keep it the issue. Use statements like “when this happened” instead of “when you do this…” Try to avoid using “you” statements but instead use “I” statements. Most of the time people confuse the issue with the relationship. This is why it is important to continue to clarify your relationship and identify the issue at hand.
- Listen carefully. Listen attentively to what is being said, and do not interrupt them while they are speaking. Once they have completed speaking, then repeat what was said so that you make sure you are understand what they are saying and they feel heard.
- Talk through potential solutions. Together, write down every solution you can think of – even silly ones. Make a list together of ways to resolve the conflict. This promotes and opens lines of healthy communication within the workplace.
- Weigh every solution. “What would happen if we did this? Would this resolve the issue? What else would this affect?”
- Choose one solution. Make a plan and start resolving the conflict. If one solution doesn’t work, then try another one. Be committed to resolving the conflict and restoring the relationship if needed. Maintain a positive attitude and a collaborative “let’s work it out” approach.
2. If you are unable to resolve the conflict one-on-one, then seek a mediator.
A mediator is an objective third person that can help the two parties communicate peacefully, stick to the issue, solve the problem, and work out a plan for resolution. A great mediator will never meet separately with the people who are involved in the conflict. This is helpful, in that otherwise you could risk polarizing their positions and forcing the persons involved to state their case and “win” it.
A great mediator will not take sides, gossip about the issue, or put blame on either person. The mediator’s role is to ask great questions, listen carefully to both sides, help each person discover the best solution, and help them stay committed to resolution. Mediators cannot be directly involved in the conflict but must remain neutral.
3. If the conflict is still not resolved, then resolve it in yourself.
Go through a motive check to see if you may be the barrier to the conflict resolution. Ask yourself:
- Am I truly seeking resolution?
- Am I observing the Golden Rule? Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you (Matthew 7:12).
- Am I extending grace to everybody? Give others the benefit of the doubt. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you (Colossians 3:13).
If the answer to these questions is “yes,” and the conflict is still not resolved with the other party, then all you can do is forgive them and move on, continually praying for them and restoration of relationship.
As I reflect back on the conflict that we had during our family road trips, I am reminded of a few things that may encourage church leaders as they lead through times of conflict.
- Conflict is not a sign of poor leadership skills. My parents were great parents!
- Even the best of teams will experience conflict. It is natural and expected.
- There are great benefits and opportunities for growth and improvement whenever conflict is handled in the proper way.
- A strong commitment to creating a culture of conflict resolution is the key to making conflict resolution work!
How can you better approach conflict resolution on your church staff team?
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