During a routine ministry meeting, I expressed my opinion on a particular topic relevant to our meeting. “Whoa!” said one of the members. “I’m not sure I agree with that.” This began a long discussion, with heated exchanges on both sides. At the end of the meeting, I felt awkward and nervous about the exchange, afraid that this would be the last time she’d come to a meeting. But you know what happened?
We walked away as friends. And she came back the following week.
When I spoke with her the following week, I wanted to make sure not only that she did not walk away angry at the altercation, but also that we were okay as friends. Although I never changed my mind about my theological standpoint (nor did she), I cared enough about her enough to let her know that I still loved her even though we disagreed.
Conflict is inevitable. But what do you do when the conflict is between you and a member of your ministry? Although it is uncomfortable to experience conflict with someone, the outcome can prove beneficial both to you and the other person in the end and can actually help a relationship rather than hinder it.
Here are some tips on how to deal with conflict in an effective way.
Nip it in the bud
If you do not nip conflict in the bud immediately, it will snowball and suffocate you in the end. It is not a matter of if, but when, the conflict will come to a head. If you perceive a problem, set aside time to meet with that person individually. Lead with a servant’s heart. Ask what you can do to help work through this issue. If the person is receptive, walk away with clear ways you can improve your leadership.
Get a mediator
If you find you are disagreeing with another ministry member, try your best to resolve it. If you can’t resolve it, ask a third party to act as a mediator between you and the other person. Make sure you choose a person who can look at the situation without bias or judgment. Then agree to meet at a neutral location such as a coffee shop or restaurant. This helps maintain your objectivity. Ask the mediator to allow both parties to voice their concerns without judgment or interruption. Once both people have spoken their minds, let the mediator help you consider what has been said and help you come to an agreement.
Meet face to face
Jesus’ leadership was one of a servant, lowering himself to our level, emptying himself, and washing the feet of his betrayers. Leadership should be a blessing, not a curse. But to receive the blessing there are often bumps along the way. Leaders who lead God’s people receive the blessing of discipleship just as Jesus did. Confronting others out of love shows your servant attitude toward leadership. A face-to-face meeting acknowledges the person and her concerns. It says to her, “I value you and what you are about to say.” It also says, “In what ways can you help in building me up to be a better leader?”