Pastors and Conflict: 8 Purposeful Actions to Help Heal Conflict

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

I sat in my office very early Monday and journaled about conflict.  As a pastor, I recognize that conflict is inevitable. Why? I’m human and I deal with humans.  I’m imperfect. I pastor an imperfect congregation. The more I understand that, the less pressure it puts upon me to be perfect. 

It was about 5 years ago, someone told me, “your job is to keep people from conflict.”  How impossible is that? Jesus didn’t even do that. But it’s a mantle that so many pastors take upon themselves.  

Pastors feel like a firefighter; constantly putting out little fires everywhere because people do not know how to navigate through healthy Biblical conflict (that’s another blog). We take upon ourselves the responsibility to solve everything so that everyone is happy and satisfied. Again, Jesus didn’t even do that. 

There’s also the constant pressure to make the church about the preference of the weekly attender.  With literally, hundreds of opinions and varied ideas for what the church “should” do is enough to rip the joy from why you do ministry.  And because you don’t do what people want you to do, you are blamed for “not caring” and/or not “hearing people.” 

So I started penning down some thoughts in my journal to share with my staff in our weekly staff meeting. I’m going to type them out like their written so their not well explained.  But you’ll get the gist. 

Here’s what I came up with and shared with my pastoral staff: 

1 – Defuse with compassion.
– Look at the world through the eyes of the “offended.” Get inside their skin and understand from their perspective. What’s their home life like? What season of life are they in? Are they dealing with issues that is intensifying the situation? Grab their perspective.
– Approach it humbly. Be open to the possibility that you are wrong. Have a teachable spirit.

2 – Validate their feelings. 
– Be cautious to tell someone they are wrong to feel that way.  Feelings are real. Emotions are real.
– Connect to what he/she is feeling. This may be the greatest connection point.
– Perspective IS reality.  Help give direction by guiding him/her though their focus. 

3 – Bring the conflict to the proper battlefield. 
– Be in the proper place and the proper time for conflict. Sunday morning in the church hallway isn’t the right place. 
– Make sure it’s the right venue. I saw a pastor in the coffeehouse the other day trying to deal with marital conflict.  That may not have been the best choice.
– Have the right people there.  My dad always says, “there’s two sides to every dime…then there’s the edge of the dime nobody is telling you.”

4 – Agree on what will be discussed and keep the meeting about THAT point.
– Try to stay on point to bring resolution. Keep the main thing the “main thing.”
– When a meeting is set, agree on what will be talked about to help keep focus.  Don’t get blindsided. 

 5 – Take ownership/responsibility over what you need to.
– Don’t take on undo faults. Taking on undo credit both good and bad isn’t healthy. 
– Don’t throw people under the bus.  Help guide your appointment to healthy biblical Matthew 18 conflict. 
– Represent yourself, your staff, and your church well. Be humble yet firm. 
– Represent The Church well.  Show the love and compassion of Jesus.

6 – Ask for forgiveness if you are at fault. 
– Avoid saying, “I’m sorry” and use “will you forgive me.” There’s a massive difference. “I’m sorry” helps establish sorrow.  “Will you forgive me” initiates the responsibility of forgiveness from the other party. 

7 – Give forgiveness. 
– If someone apologizes offer forgiveness verbally.  “I forgive you” does so much more than “it’s okay.” When forgiveness is extended, it releases an individual.  
– Communicate it afterwords.  It could be a note/card. Maybe it’s a text or message. To many people picture a vindictive God because their pastor doesn’t communicate or walk in forgiveness well.  

8 – Resolution doesn’t mean everyone gets what they want. INCLUDING YOU THE PASTOR.
– Keep the main thing Jesus and His Kingdom.
– Embrace and celebrate what you share.
– You may agree to disagree.
– Pray together.
– Give direction and accountability.
– Go after the Kingdom win and not the personal win. 

Do we as a staff (or any pastoral staff for that matter) have this stuff down perfect? Nope.  We’re human which is why we all need reminders of how to approach people with the same grace that Christ shows us.

Be humble. Be teachable. Show the love of Jesus.

Rinse and repeat.


Thanks for letting me ramble…

3 responses to “Pastors and Conflict: 8 Purposeful Actions to Help Heal Conflict”

  1. I just wanna know one thing…
    How’d you get to be so wise? Good stuff PD.

  2. Now that we heard Pastor Dave at KFirst on Tuesday morning, I thought you might like to read his thoughts on how to heal conflict. Debbie stressed the need of always speaking with love. 💕Sally

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Always out of love!!! Debbie is a wise woman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: