Dealing With Conflict

We had a bit of a conflict today at the church, and I confess that I didn’t deal with it well. In fact, I lost my temper a bit.

Of course, there are all sorts of ways I could justify this. I was tired. I was trying to watch my kids, train our new offering counters, and participate in a meeting at the same time. I arrived in the middle of an argument that was already happening, and most of that rage and confusion was directed my way. But no matter the justification, the reality is that I didn’t handle myself well, and as a result I’m sure some folks were hurt.

Conflict in the church is perhaps the most difficult thing we ever deal with, and probably the thing that we’re least prepared for. Like all idealists, most pastors want to focus on the positive ways that we grow in love from one another. We want to believe that folks have lofty ideals like ours, and that they will be willing to put aside their agendas to work for the good of the church.

Yeah right. We only have to look in the mirror to realize what a farce that is.

It’s always frustrating when conflict arises, and usually, these conflicts are over the least important issue. It would be one thing to have folks fighting over how we are going to reach out to our community. It’s another thing when the conflicts are over turf issues, past history, personality conflicts, and what color coffee cup we should purchase for the Fellowship Hall.

Editor’s note… Before anyone reads into this any attacks on the situation I referred to earlier, please know that I am speaking generally. There were indeed good reasons for that conflict and I have not desire to dredge up soft wounds.

Most often these conflicts arise from poor communication. And yet, often times, the communication is poor for the most innocent of reasons — from the busyness of our daily lives to lost e-mail messages. Usually, the main communication breakdown occurs because of assumptions (and yes, we all know what the word “assume” leads us to). Too often, I assume that communication is happening, only to find out that the people who need to know don’t know.

In any case, resolving these conflicts is hard work, and I’m not particularly effective at it. While I would like to have the wisdom of the Godfather (thanks Jen for that apropo descriptor), more often I’m at a loss for how to proceed. Throw in that a family of origin that generally avoids conflict, and a short attention span, and you have the recipe for disaster.

Why is it that I think God called me to this? Oh yeah, it’s because I’ve been given a gift — for teaching, for leading, for proclaiming. These gifts are great, but there are days when I would prefer the wisdom of Solomon to the ability to reflect on Biblical texts.

Hey God, could you throw a few of those wisdom genes my way? And while your at it, how about throwing a little bit of grace our way as well.

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