Do You Lean Into Conflict or Step Back from It?

Argument-confrontationA few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a breakout session at Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference 2012 titled "The Non-Confrontationalist’s Guide to Confrontation."

I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, primarily because no matter the context, no matter the size, no matter the organizational structure … leading through conflict is one of the most important things we do.

In this session, I unpacked three reasons why you should choose to lean into conflict rather than step back from it. And I shared four steps I use to lead through conflict. I believe everyone can be a better leader by applying these simple steps.

Let’s start with the reasons why you would choose to lean into conflict. First up: the value of conflict. 

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For years I viewed conflict as something God used to make me a better leader. So every time I opted to step back or shy away from addressing a quarrel between team members or poor communication between a parent and volunteer, I would internally berate myself for my lack of courage. Then one day God lovingly convicted me. These conflicts weren’t all about me! But I was fighting hard to make them so.

“Could it be," He so gently said to me, "that this conflict has more to do with them and a work I desire to complete in them? You can join Me in My work or not. But I am faithful to complete it and will use whomever is willing.”  

Ouch! That one hurt. When I realized that my self-centeredness and tendency toward self-preservation was an active detriment to those around me, it was incredibly convicting. I viewed conflict through the wrong lens, and that had to change.

Now the value of conflict all comes down to how I view those around me. I begin with the belief that the people on my team, the volunteers in my ministry and the parents I serve simply want to be better … better team members, better parents, better volunteers, better Christ-followers, better (fill in the blank). When I believe that (ultimately) the person in question wants to improve, then I can leverage this conflict to help make them better.

Why? Because Scripture is clear:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)

“… that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Phil. 1:6)

For this reason alone, conflict holds great value in our life—because it sharpens us and also those around us. When we view conflict through this lens, then we are more willing to lean into it. God has a way of using circumstances to refine and strengthen our faith. He is faithful this way.

Action Step: Invest five minutes and take inventory of the conflict you currently have in your life. Assuming that all parties involved (ultimately) want to be better, list positive outcomes that can result from addressing the conflict rather than ignoring it.

Check back for part 2 of this series for more on why you would choose to lean into conflict.

Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children’s ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tenn. For the original article, visit

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