One of the wonderful things about ministry is that you get to work with people that are passionate about the church and their ministry. Most volunteers and staff do what they do because they love it, it brings them great joy, and they care about the people they are serving.
One of the consequences of working with people who are passionate about their ministry is that they it can more easily lead to conflict and hurt feelings. I’d rather work with people who have passion about ministry, so I’ll deal with those hurt feelings and conflict any day.
But it can be tough to deal with this type of relational conflict. The challenge for you and me is that, most of the time, the conflict that evolves is accidental. There was never any intention to hurt the person I was ministering with. But it happened.
When it does happen, I choose to try to deal with the hurt relationship immediately. I am not a person who let’s things go. I’d rather hear the truth and try to deal with the consequences of my behavior as opposed to doing nothing.
It’s easier to do nothing, but we can’t just let it go. We have to work to resolve the problem and restore the relationship. As ministers, many of us are people persons. We care about the relationships in our lives, which is what makes relational conflict so difficult for us.
Here are the main reasons why I deal with relational conflict right away:
- It’s my personality. When I see something is wrong, I work to fix it. Maybe it’s a guy thing. Maybe it’s a John thing. At any rate, I pride myself for having a “constructive spirit of discontent.” Everything can be better, so I work towards bettering it. This is true for relationships as well.
- I feel very uneasy until the conflict is resolved. I literally feel light pain in my stomach. It’s almost like the feeling of butterflies, except they feel more like big ugly moths flying around in my gut. When I am having relational conflict, I feel it inside my body. This feeling does not go away until the relationship is restored.
- Good results don’t come out of prolonged conflict. In my experience, the longer it takes to deal with the conflict, the more work and effort it will take on your part. When you work to deal with the conflict immediately, people respect that, even if they are upset at you. When we wait to deal with the conflict, people begin to find other reasons to be upset at you. It’s like a dam holding back a ton of water. The longer I wait to deal with the issue, the more water backs up. When I do finally deal with the conflict, it becomes much harder to slowly release the backed up water. Instead, the dam breaks and all the water comes rushing at you at one time. The longer you wait, the harder it is to resolve the issue.
These are all reasons why I reach out to the people that I am having conflict with. I immediately talk with the person, find out what is going on, and take steps to restore the relationship. Sometimes the issue is not in my control. Often times, it is in my control. I don’t know that until I sit down and talk with the individual.
People who know me well know that I go out of my way to try and make a relationship better. I’m not perfect at it, but I try.
Being in leadership means that there are times when we are going to have relational conflict. It’s part of the role, so work to restore relationships when things have gone awry.
Question: What is your reaction when you are having relational conflict in ministry?