Resolving Conflict in the Church

When conflict occurs in the church, it can threaten the unity of a congregation. Experts say the only way to heal conflict is to acknowledge and address it. But how?

Attorney Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministries, offers the following six tips to help pastors address disputes between members of the congregation:

  1. Start by Modeling Christ
    1. Sande has seen a gospel-based approach work in situations that seemed impossible to restore, including those with deeply divided church boards. It all starts when people take Jesus’ teaching seriously: "Get the log out of your own eye before you start pointing at the speck in the other guys’ eye."
  2. Practice Relational Wisdom
    1. Before attempting to resolve an issue, Sande says it’s wise to ask yourself questions that heighten your self-awareness, other-awareness, and God-awareness.
  3. Recognize the Three Faces of Fear
    1. When people fear something, they typically have one of three responses: control, anger, or withdrawal. Sande says the more quickly you address others’ fears with the gentleness, kindness, and love of Christ, the more often you’ll see a positive result.
  4. Practice the ‘Three Ps’ of Satisfaction
    1. Any time you’re trying to solve a problem, render a decision, or give guidance, you want people to be satisfied with the process, with how they were treated, and with the final outcome. Sande calls these the Three Ps: Process satisfaction, Personal satisfaction, and Product satisfaction.
  5. Remember the Golden Result
    1. People will usually treat you the way you treat them. It’s very similar to the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
  6. Promote Biblical Peacemaking
    1. If the church encourages small group leaders and elders to develop more advanced skills, such as biblical reconciliation, it allows lay leaders to coach individuals and serve as mediators in conflicts. That way, only the really difficult cases among the congregation would be left for pastors to address.

If you would like to dig deeper into the topic of biblical peacemaking, here is an article from Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company® that can help.

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.