Conflict is a part of life. It is something we have in common; we’ve all experienced it. And we have all developed individual patterns of response to conflict. Some of those patterns are productive and lead to increased authenticity in relationships. Some of those patterns are destructive and can lead to divisiveness.
Congregations, like all organizations, develop patterns for handling conflict as well. Those patterns can deepen respect and love for those with different views or they can create an environment from which a disturbing amount of conflict emanates. When the deeply conflicted environment is allowed to go unchecked over time, it has the power to distort facts, destroy relationships, divide communities, and deviate our course from our mission and vision. It can keep congregations from becoming what they are called to be in Christ.
The good news is that congregations can learn to manage conflict more effectively. But getting there requires the first step of understanding WHY the congregation finds itself in conflict, dealing with the current reality (however harsh), learning new skills for getting to win-win solutions, and gaining genuine closure. All of this must happen through an intentional process of seeking to understand, seeking forgiveness, and seeking restoration.
This requires a steady non-anxious look in the mirror. It begins with organizational intelligence which allows the congregational leadership, in a systematic way, to look at the health of the church as an organization. This is accomplished through soliciting input from every voice in the body-none louder than another, none more influential than another. And it requires an examination and understanding of the culture of the church. All too often, it is the organizational culture that is at the root of conflict.
Through its work with close to 3,000 congregations across the country, Holy Cow! Consulting has a clear understanding of both the dead ends where congregations too often find themselves and best practices for congregations that can lead to vitality. For a congregation in deep conflict, most often, nothing in the church is going to improve until that conflict is identified, mediated, and reconciled. The conflicted congregation needs all of these steps in order to escape the cycle of poorly managed conflict that frequently depresses the whole system and leads to loss of morale, clarity of purpose and membership.
We can help! If your Congregation Assessment Tool (CAT) results indicate growing or significant conflict, we have the skills and processes to help move you to the other side through a customized but intentional process of education, practice, and reconciliation.