Posted by Bo Sanders

You may be aware that sometimes people are unhappy or don’t like everything going on at church.

A popular way of talking about conflict styles is to break them up into 3 categories:

  1. Flight
  2. Fright
  3. Fight

I’m always surprised at the fairly even distribution of these 3 responses in any group. It makes sense why conflict is so difficult – because we respond to it in so many different ways.

It is important that we handle conflict well as a congregation (also true for families or the larger community).

If we handle conflict well then our story keeps going. If we don’t things can come crashing to a halt.

Here are the 3 principles that I have found for handling conflict well in community:

  • Matthew 18 Principle
  • Nothing Negative by Email
  • In church, people have names

Matthew 18 Principle: Jesus says that if you have something against another person there are 3 stages to the sequence.
First, go to them. Give them a chance to repent. They might not even know that they have done anything wrong.
Second, if they won’t listen to you, bring one of two other people to make to help navigate between you.
Third, if they still won’t listen, then you can bring it to the larger community

The heart behind Matthew 18 is “keep the circle small so that the person can stay in community”.

Nothing Negative by Email: Email is great for updates and for setting up meetings. It is not great for venting or ranting. As tough as this is, if you are upset at someone you are going to have to call them. At most, you can email them to set up a time and let them know that it is serious or that you have concerns.

In church, people have names: Unnamed people have a magical ability to multiply. One upset person who does not follow Matthew 18 and instead talks to 4 other people somehow becomes FOUR upset people and now you have a faction or worse yet a mob when in reality you just have one person with hurt feelings or having a bad day.

An easy solution is to simply use names. “John didn’t like the sermon today” is different than John telling 4 people and it gets reported that “People didn’t like the sermon today”.

 

I wouldn’t labor this point except to repeat how consequential all of this can be: If we handle conflict well then our story keeps going. If we don’t things can come crashing to a halt. It allows us to walk forward together: in faith, in humility, and in community.


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