By Rachel Lovingood
Ministry Wife, Speaker, Author
Conflict. Not something that I like or ever look forward to. Most people don’t. But it is a part of all of our lives. Especially since we are leaders.
Now you may be like a few people I know who sort of thrive on conflict (and if that’s true, maybe you should write the next blog), but the majority of us would rather do many other things than deal with conflict. However, since we have already established that it is an inevitable part of our lives, then let’s talk about some things that can make it easier for us to deal with conflict when it comes our way.
I’ve been in ministry my whole adult and married life (32+) years, which means that I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about this subject. I still don’t look forward to conflict, but I can respect its role in life and ministry. So I want to share a few things we can call “Tips for dealing with conflict,” and maybe you can find something that will help and encourage you somehow. Because even if you don’t like it, you need to learn how to handle it.
Tips for dealing with conflict
You can’t ignore it
*No, you can’t just ignore it and hope it goes away: Sorry, but that’s the truth. When conflict rears, it’s head you need to deal with it. Scripture tells us, “If possible as much as depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). That means that when you’re aware of conflict, do something about it. Maybe some of these next tips will help you with that!
Don’t take up your man’s offense
Let the men be the men-don’t take up offenses unnecessarily: So as wives who love our husbands, we can sometimes jump in the middle of their stuff and get offended for them. Men and women are different (I know! That was earth-shattering for you), but our differences can especially be seen in conflict management. Men can disagree and argue through an issue, then dismiss and go have lunch together – no big deal. When you hear about the conflict, all you can think is, “Who dares to disagree with my man,” “Don’t they know how hard he worked on that or how much he prayed about it?” Here’s the thing. You’re going to get your own share of conflict so stay out of his. Let the men be the men means trusting your hubby enough to let him work through things. You can be a listening ear, occasionally the voice of reason (haha), and definitely prayer support, BUT be careful about taking up offenses that are not yours to carry.
Don’t personalize everything; develop thicker skin
The world isn’t fair (sorry, but it’s true), and as long as you are working with people, then there will be those who disagree with what’s happening at your church. Yes, they should be focused on what God is doing and be grateful, but they don’t always see it that way. The one thing we can do is show by example the godly way to handle conflict. So don’t make everything about you (yes, it is in some ways because you’re the leaders), but sometimes it’s more about the change or whatever than it is about you as a person. When you realize this, you can talk through things and recognize the underlying fear or whatever they are struggling with. Then resolution is much easier to achieve.
Ask the Lord what you need to change or learn from the conflict:
Sometimes, you don’t have all the right answers or attitudes, or at least I don’t. God challenged me long ago to look at conflict as part of the refining/pruning process. When you stop and ask the Lord to show you what you need to learn or how you need to change in a situation, it is incredible what you can discover. Sometimes you are exactly right and need to stand your ground, but other times, if you adjust a bit, resolution may result.
Agree that you may work/lead better separately
All personalities are not a good mix. Sometimes as you lead, you may experience tension with other leaders. Maybe your styles don’t line up well. That doesn’t make one of you wrong, just different. Remember that we all have a part to play in the body of Christ (Rom 12:4-5), and it’s okay to agree to lead different places as long as you are al in agreement about being on the same team. I LOVE the fact that different leadership styles speak to and reach different types of people, and that’s a great thing!!
Find things to appreciate about the other person
When conflict comes your way, one good thing to do is try and focus on some positive things about the other person. (Yes, you may have to pray about it but try hard!) Look for something about them to be thankful for: are they great at getting things done, very detail-oriented, or passionate about an idea? Focus on that and ask the Lord for wisdom in dealing with them.
*Know who the real enemy is: Satan wants to sow discord. You must remember who our enemy is because you CANNOT let him divide and conquer on your watch. It is one of his favorite tactics, and when he gets believers arguing and complaining within the body, we do the work for him. I love Phil 2:14-15 “Do everything without arguing and complaining … so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God, above reproach in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe.” So good, right?!?!
Pray John 17:20-26 and trust that God can use you to bring unity and spread love because you are not in this leadership thing alone. He who called you will also equip you!! So sister –don’t run from conflict, deal with it, and let God work through it!!