May 11, 2010
8 Resources for Peacefully Resolving Church Conflicts
The definitive collection to guide leaders before, during, and after turbulent times.
In our ongoing conversations with church leaders, as well as our collaboration with colleagues at Leadership Journal, OutofUr.com, and BuildingChurchLeaders.com, we know conflict remains one of the biggest detractors from a healthy church office environment. So we're keenly aware of this issue, and why it matters a great deal to church leaders like you and me.
I was reminded—again—of the significance of this issue last summer, when I attended the National Association of Church Business Administration's annual conference. Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministries, offered a keynote address on the urgency with which church leaders should address conflict and resolve it peacefully. Otherwise, congregations face unnecessary heartache, and the testimony given to the communities surrounding them becomes stained.
One point that Ken offered during his speech remains firmly planted in my mind: "Reflect much on Jesus and his gospel, and you will reflect much of Jesus and his gospel."
Since then, we've offered two pieces on the subject of healthy conflict resolution, and in a recent phone interview I did with Ken, he offered additional resources to help church leaders. Here's a helpful look at all of them:
- In December, we published "Resolving Conflict in the Church Office," from David Fletcher, an executive pastor and the founder of XPastor.org. David also is a contributing editor to Your Church.
- Last month, we posted an updated article from Ken titled "Lawsuits in the Church." It includes six basic steps that can help protect a church.
- In my recent call with Ken, he highlighted the following two resources:
For a glimpse of The Leadership Opportunity's principles in action, read this article from The Oklahoman about a church that resolved a terrible conflict and experienced "tremendous reconciliation" at a public ceremony, Ken says.
—The Peacemaking Church Resource Set (for Your Church readers, Ken graciously has offered—again, at no financial benefit to Your Church—a 20-percent discount. Please use this code: CTONLINE20). "This set is geared toward the entire congregation," Ken says. It provides materials to begin building a culture of peace in a local church, providing a vision for the church's leaders, tools to teach the theology of peacemaking, and ways to embed the peacemaking approach through a dedicated—and trained team. The set helps leaders identify, recruit, and train gifted people for the peacemaking team. "You need some folks with passion and gifts in that area," Ken says. Of the hundreds of churches interviewed, the ones with the most dynamic and fruitful peacemaking efforts have an established and trained team, he says. One prime example: Tony Evans' Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas.
Ken says pastors of small churches may think the formation of a team is unrealistic because recruiting and retaining volunteers already presents a formidable challenge. In many instances, training existing lay leaders who serve in other roles can still, in effect, create a peacemaking team that reaches across the entire ministry, he says. Without one, these pastors wind up mediating most conflicts themselves, which becomes a drain on time and energy. "Taking the time to teach somebody an important task, especially peacemaking, is an investment of time," Ken says. He estimates the 10 to 20 hours of time a pastor spends upfront with training results in 5 hours of time gained by that pastor each month to tend to other ministry matters for several years to come.
- Ken also recommends "The Peacemaking Pastor," a 2006 book by Alfred Poirier. "It provides a more theological view," Ken says.
- Ken didn't mention it in his call with me, but David referenced it in his post, and many others have as well: Ken wrote a book in 2003 titled, The Peacemaker.
- I'll also highlight our electronic training resource, "Church Office Communications," as well as BuildingChurchLeaders.com's recently updated and expanded Training Theme "Handling Conflict," which includes contributions from Larry Osborne, Kevin Miller, Fred Smith Sr., Bill Hybels, and Mark Buchanan.
- A final thought (added on May 13, 2010): Our sister publication Leadership journal posted an article this week titled, "A Repenting Church," which looks at how one church identified its corporate sins and started down a path of reconciliation through public confession and repentance.