Disagreement and conflict are hard. However, when managed well, it can help to strengthen and advance your ministry. Four ministry leaders share their wisdom on how you can approach conflict confidently and constructively.
1. Intervene early
Open discussion, the freedom to challenge and speak up, sharing ideas, admitting mistakes and making amends – these are all healthy things and should be encouraged. It is also healthy and right to address issues early even when that is hard to do.
I have seen too many situations where people in leadership put off dealing with a personnel or pastoral issue hoping they won’t need to confront it and that it’ll sort itself out. In reality, it will only get worse over time and become more difficult and more damaging later on.
Joy set up Emerge in 2016 to support young people who enter A&E with anything self-harm or suicide-related.
2. ‘Mine’ for conflict
Conflict is good – absolutely! We should, in fact, “mine for conflict”, look for open and honest feedback, and seek ways to improve even if they are hard to hear.
The key to doing this well is to have a context for that conflict to take place. It’s important there is mutual respect and care. Conflict without a relationship is dangerous and unpleasant. However, conflict in the context of a trusted relationship can be key to individual and organisational growth.
Kids Matter engages local churches to equip parents and carers facing disadvantages with confidence, competence and community, enabling their children to thrive.
3. Focus on relationships
Yes, if there is a willingness to listen and value other perspectives then there is opportunity for growth. Conflict and dissatisfaction can be catalysts for change, the key is to navigate these in a healthy way that is not damaging to people or relationships.
Peaced Together believes that good can come from negative and difficult experiences. Using five themed craft projects, they encourage women to reflect on their lives and set out on a personal journey from brokenness to hope.
4. Seek people who think differently
There’s rarely only one way to approach a particular ministry or project and I worry about ministries where there’s never any conflict. It often means it’s run by people who all think or act the same and that doesn’t necessarily then serve all of God’s people well.
We all come to work with our particular perspectives and experiences that shape how we think and work. Conflict is a natural, healthy part of working these differences out.
Unresolved conflict is what becomes unhealthy. I think sometimes within the church/Christian ministry, it can be easy to ignore areas of conflict and that’s when factions and resentments can develop that get in the way of what we’re trying to achieve.
Trussell Trust supports a nationwide network of food banks and provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.