There’s nothing more challenging interpersonally than dealing with a serious conflict with someone on your church staff or a volunteer in a key position in your ministry.
The temptation would be to let time heal it or hope that the tension simply goes away on its own. But fight those feelings because conflict in the church, especially on a team, has to be dealt with well in order for genuine progress to be made.
Can’t we all just get along? Actually, no, and that’s probably a good thing because it forces us to tackle conflict in a God-honoring manner. Here are some steps to move toward resolution when you find yourself in conflict with someone on staff.
Have you ever heard the phrase “odd man out?” It means you didn’t fit. You don’t measure up for some reason. You were excluded. It hurts.
I’ve been that person numerous times. I get it because I’m pastor sometimes. People assume I can’t also be fun. So they don’t invite me to the party. I experienced it some in business circles. There are haves and have nots in many business circles. I was mostly in the have nots. I’ve even been excluded though for having too much. People assume because I’m not struggling like they are that I probably never have.
We’ve all been excluded at some point in life.
Have you ever opened your refrigerator and said with passion, “Whoa, what IS that smell? I have and it’s no fun. I quickly launch a breath-holding expedition to find the source of the foul smell that is making everything stink too.
We don’t just leave it there do we? We get rid of it. We agree that it’s unacceptable and do something about it.
There are things that can make your leadership team or staff “smell bad” too.
I call them the foul four. I recently checked my thinking by doing quick interviews with a half dozen “bosses” of church staff asking the question: “What are the characteristics of staff you like the least? The four held steady.
As a leader, there are many times I feel like the mediator between opposing viewpoints. I’m steering towards a common, shared vision, but there are a myriad of opinions in how we accomplish the vision.
I’m not afraid of conflict on a team. In fact, I think it can be healthy for the team if handled correctly. It keeps tension from building unnecessarily, simply because emotions and opinions are hidden rather than addressed. It brings new ideas to the table and welcomes input from everyone. When conflict is ignored or stifled, it makes people feel devalued and controlled.
When faced with conflict on my team, I realize the way I handle it will go a long way toward allowing the disagreement to work for the overall good. In fact, I must learn to better manage the conflicts rather than attempt to kill them.
Here are seven thoughts for managing conflict on a team:
When considering who should be on the senior leadership team, many times we try to answer the wrong questions. Sometimes we ask, “What positions should be represented on the team?” In the church world, we may think the “Pastor” or “Director” title, or people with certain positions automatically qualify. That’s not always the case.
Sometimes we ask, “Who has been around for the longest?” Tenure does not necessarily equate with the profile of the person you want serving on this team. In fact, I’d argue that if you’re stuck and fresh perspective is one of your needs, you might want to consider including the newest person on the team.
Does God want us to hire a youth pastor? Should we mortgage the church to pay for a remodel? Should I run this new program?
These decisions can keep you up at night. Yet, by making two easy changes in the way you process decisions, you will dramatically increase the probability of success.
Ask Broader Questions
When we face leadership choices, we tend to ask narrow questions. Studies show that closed-ended questions, which require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, do not help us make the best decision. You will reach a better decision with lasting results if you ask different questions. Take a step back and consider broader questions. Here are some examples: