Conflict. Many of us want to avoid it all cost. Others face it head-on. Then there are those who rather seem to enjoy it. Like it or not, no matter how you feel about conflict, it’s going to happen in your kids ministry among your team, kids, and families. Here are six tips to keep in mind when it does.
- Pray. And then pray more. While not all conflict results from sin (sometimes it’s just miscommunication), conflict can be a breeding ground for sin as emotions, defensiveness, and pride run high. Bathe the situation in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to soften the heart of everyone involved.
- Talk it out. This sounds obvious, but conflict is often swept under the rug in hopes that it will just go away. Conflict can be dangerous; unresolved conflict can be lethal. Proactively set up a time for everyone involved to meet and talk. Choose a time and place where everyone can be fully engaged. Give everyone the opportunity to share their perspective, thoughts, and feelings.
- Get to the heart of the matter. The trigger that sets off conflict is important, but it often isn’t the key issue needing to be addressed. A teacher who grumbles behind your back about the new curriculum may actually feel devalued because she led the adoption of the previous material. You need to talk about the curriculum, but it isn’t the key issue—expressing value for your teacher is. If you don’t get to the heart of the matter, the conflict may go away temporarily, but it will come back—usually stronger.
- Confess freely and forgive fully. In John 13:34-35, Jesus commanded us to love one another and said that our love for each other would show the world that we follow Him. Conflict is actually fertile soil for our love for each other to grow and bloom as we humbly confess our sin, seek forgiveness, and fully forgive others.
- Restore the relationship. Forgiveness is a critical first step, but conflict resolution doesn’t end there. Be sure to work at restoring the relationships that may have been wounded in the conflict. These relationships will take time to rebuild. Be proactive and patient in doing what it takes to make the relationships healthy again.
- Get help if needed. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, we won’t be able to resolve conflict. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gave us the formula for when and how to include others to help mediate and resolve the conflict. Honor everyone involved by trying to work things out internally first, but if that fails, turn to other godly men and women around you for help. Jesus prayed for our unity in John 17; be willing to do what it takes to restore and preserve it.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to Lifeway. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 1st-3rd graders at church.