Do you hate conflict at church? I’ll be honest with you. I’m as conflict averse as the next church leader. My mother hated conflict, and so do I. My heart starts to pound and my palms sweat. In my heart of hearts, I want everyone to like me, and everyone to get along with me and with each other.
Church conflict can be be good news
I’ve learned increasing my tolerance for conflict can enhance my leadership effectiveness. We can actually celebrate church conflict, both personally, and for the congregation as a whole.
Here are five reasons:
Congregations with no conflict aren’t going anywhere.
Churches with zero conflict have little energy and will eventually decline. When church leaders are brave enough to take stands and speak a vision, some won’t like it. Conflict may actually be a sign you are on the right track.
Church conflict gives you a chance to work on yourself
You get the chance to develop a backbone and thicker skin. As a pastor, I got to the point where I truly could celebrate that someone got mad at me. To be honest, I didn’t love it, but I knew it was growth-producing for me, and for the congregation.
You’re in good company if your church has conflict.
The churches Paul wrote to, especially the church in Corinth, had plenty. And of course, Jesus faced plenty of criticism and even danger.
It’s a sign that people care about their church.
When people complain, I heard someone say recently, look for the deeper commitment behind their complaint. If you learn to appreciate the critics and complainers, dealing with conflict will be easier and more productive.
It gives you an opportunity to assess people’s functioning.
Notice who takes the conflict personally (maybe it’s you!) or says, “How can you say that!” And notice who is able to say clearly and calmly, “I disagree.” The latter are the ones you want to tap for future leadership.
How can you see the conflict in your church as something to celebrate?
And here’s another post about how to approach church conflict.