Friday, March 26, 2021

Pastoral Resources: Conflict Management Handbook (Part 3)

(This is a series of notes that I assembled into a handbook for myself during my last year of seminary, in preparation for stepping into church leadership. I've found them helpful to keep in mind during church conflict situations, so I provide them here in the hope that they might prove similarly helpful to others.)

Part 3: How to Handle Confrontation & Conflict

What to Do When Confrontation over Sin Is Necessary:

The Matthew 18 Process:

·      - First go and have a one-on-one meeting to gently confront the person about his/her sin (v.15)

·      - If that doesn’t work, then go with two or three witnesses (v.16)

·      - If that doesn’t work either, present the problem to the congregation, in order that others in the congregation can try to win back their brother or sister (v.17)

·      - Finally, if that doesn’t work, cut off contact with the person (v.17)

How to Engage a One-on-One confrontation/discussion:

·      - Always remember that restoration is the goal of confrontation

·      - Talk in person if possible

·      - Plan your words

·      - Be quick to listen

·      - Bring hope through the Gospel

·      - Clarify the issues by asking questions

·      - Reflect/paraphrase back what the person is saying, in order to make sure you understand

·      - Be clear about showing agreement with anything that is good or right in the other person’s sentiments

·      - Talk from beside, not from above

·      - Help them examine and understand their root desires and motivations

·      - Use “I feel…” statements as much as possible—it’s both gentler, and harder to refute, when you ground your statements in your own experience and perception

·      - Be objective, as much as possible

·      - Be clear that where sin is involved, it cannot be ignored

·      - When you reference or quote the Bible, do it to build up, not tear down

·      - Go to great lengths to be gentle and loving, but not so far as to not be firm where sin is involved

·      - Ask for feedback

What to Do When Group Conflicts Start to Brew:

·      - Be quick with “clear the air” sessions to deal with misunderstandings

·      - Use questionnaires or other communication-methods to gather information, to find out:

o   The perceptions of those involved (how should things be going, and why, in your opinion, aren’t they going that way right now?)

o   The origins of the conflict

o   The substance of the conflict

o   The emotions involved

o   What stage the conflict is in

Running a “conflict management meeting” with both sides involved:

·      - Hold meetings on neutral ground (for instance, at a restaurant)

·      - Start the session with Bible study and prayer

·      - Make clear the goal of the meeting: finding a solution agreeable to all parties, if possible, and restoring harmony and peace in the Body

·      - Proceed in a calm & relaxed manner

·      - Project optimism about the hoped-for outcome

·      - Agree on the rules and norms for the meeting, such as:

o   Only one person talking at a time

o   Allow each side to articulate its own position (rather than having the opposition talk about their perception of the other side’s position)

o   No insults or name-calling

o   No unreflective criticism of someone else’s ideas or hopes for change

·      - Focus on the issues at hand, not on emotions or old grudges

·      - Identify areas of agreement & disagreement

·      - Consider possible alternatives, looking especially for short-term stepping stones toward larger changes in the future

·      - All ideas should be written down for future reference

·      - Discuss the pros and cons of each proposition

·      - Consider Biblical teaching and principles on the issue under consideration

·      - Motivate commitment to a new plan, if one can be decided upon

o   Make it a commitment both to the relationships with one another and to the tasks of the new plan

o   Put it in writing

o   Help the “losing” side save face by including as many of their words and sentiments as possible into the new plan

o   Celebrate the successful conclusion

·      - Afterward, monitor and evaluate the progress of the plan—follow up!

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