Conflict is particularly common within Elderships, Church Councils, Church Boards and also between Ministers and these senior lay leadership groups. The following is a policy for keeping this conflict healthy and constructive.
1. Recognise that conflict is normal. It arises from genuine disagreements, different perspectives and competing values and needs. These differences are creative and welcome. It is how conflict is handled that is important, not whether or not it happens. It will occur sooner or later as any long term Council member knows from experience.
2. All church elderships, councils and boards should ensure that members have some conflict management training to prepare themselves for constructive conflict engagement.
1. This may include Thomas-Kilman Conflict Styles
2. Leas’ Five Levels of Conflict
3. Rundle and Flanagan Conflict Competencies for Leaders
3. Encourage the use in training, and when a conflict first breaks out, of a document such as “Covenant Commitments for Christians at Times of Disagreement”. The whole group needs to commit to respectful and healthy behaviour in times of conflict and commit to keeping group members accountable for their behaviour.
4. Conflict is a call to prayer. Encourage the commitment all people involved and the process to God and seek His guidance and help. Be careful not to spiritualise conflict by assuming the other party is sinful or in the wrong.
5. Ordinary issues that require decision making when there are differences of opinion should be engaged in a standard process:
1. Agree how the decision will be made including what level of consultation needs to take place and who will make the decision.
2. Gather and analyse all the facts, the background, the needs, interests and values of each party, generate potential outcomes and solutions.
3. Logically assess the issues and outcomes one by one, exploring the questions thoroughly.
4. Pray about the issues and outcomes one by one.
5. Reflect on how each outcome will impact people.
6. Make and implement a decision according to 1. above.
6. Issues to do with a Minister should be raised at Council level only as a result of a formal review or a previous non-personal or failed personal resolution process.
7. Issues between individuals on Council should be referred for mediation and not discussed collectively.
8. If issues are unable to be resolved within the council itself, agree to seek a facilitator to assist in resolution.