This is part two of a post on the challenges of conflict resolution within the church written by Martha Lawley, author of Attending the Bride of Christ. Read part one here.
In my first post we considered the importance of distinguishing between facts, feeling and opinions/perceptions. For successful resolution of conflict each of these must be addressed.
So how do we go about this sorting process and get to the real issues that must be addressed? Below are some practical suggestions to facilitate a healthy dialogue in which facts, feelings and opinions can be sorted out and God honoring solutions can be discovered.
1. Seek Biblical Guidance
2. Find Common Ground
It may be helpful for the parties to identify the common ground – that is, the goals and interests they share. Identifying common ground can help refine the area of disagreement and serves as a basis for resolving differences. Sadly, we often skip this important step.
3. Establish Guidelines
Without guideliness, the process can quickly deteriorate:
Agree that now is a good time to attempt to resolve the conflict. Allow "prime time" when energy is high and motivation is positive, not when you are angry or tired or trying to meet a deadline to adjourn.
Share the common goal with everyone involved. The goal of the process is to honor God by seeking deeper understanding of one another and discovering better solutions.
Review the ground rules for maintaining trust and respect for others. Discuss the specific issue or specific behavior, not the person, personality or motivation. Allow everyone to share their concerns. Encourage listening to understand and discourage interrupting.
Focus on the present. Rather than focus on what happened in the past, consider what needs to be done now to solve the problem.
Agree on which sources of information will be used. For example, rumor and speculation is not a useful source of information. Acceptable sources of information should be reliable and verifiable.
Provide "face-saving" way out. Don’t corner the other person. Always leave an opening for a graceful way to resolve the issue.
Navigating the rough waters of conflict is always a challenge. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. At other times, a trial period to see how something works out might be useful.
Being a true peacemaker – seeking to resolve conflict God’s Way – takes time and dedication. It is not for the faint of heart and there are no short cuts. However, the benefits of genuine resolution and restoration are well worth it.
What about you? Do you have any conflict resolutions tips to share? I would love to hear from you!
Martha Lawley speaker, author and Bible study leader from Worland, Wyoming, formerly served as the Women’s Consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention until her family moved to northern Wyoming. She contributed to the women’s leadership books,Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level and Women Reaching Women: Revised and Expanded edition, published by LifeWay, and has written numerous articles for LifeWay’s Women’s Ministry web site. She is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier and serves her local church in various areas of leadership, and is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee