You wear many hats as a pastor—you’re a mentor, teacher, leader, role-model, referee…wait? Referee?
As a pastor, you may be expected to have the final say (or at least get involved or give direction) when conflict arises in your church. Sometimes the disputes will be childish, comical even. Regardless of the pettiness, people’s feelings are at stake. For minor issues you can (and likely should) allow your other staff members to be the peacemakers and leave you out of it. You may not have the time, the desire, or the knowledge of the entire situation to give proper counsel. For conflict among your staff members, or if there continues to be unresolved issues among your churchgoers, you may need to call a private meeting to address the situation yourself.
In instances like these, here are some points to keep in mind so that regardless of what is said and done during the meetings, your head stays level and you are able to lead the meeting and hopefully put the issue to rest.
- Do your research beforehand. There are likely several sides to each story but without inviting gossip, gather the basic facts regarding the dispute, including who is involved and what main issue is being disputed.
- Pray before the meeting. Even if you have only a few minutes before stepping into a volatile room, take a moment to pray for guidance and understanding for yourself, and for the ability to lead the parties to a peaceful resolution. Your emotions will help set the tone so arm yourself with prayer first.
- Always have at least one other staff member in the meeting with you, preferably someone who can take notes, if needed, for any follow-up items.
- Listen to each side but do not allow additional accusations, or for emotions to get out of hand. Advise them to keep it to the facts. Channel your inner Judge Judy if you must while being fair and impartial.
- Make a decision based on the information and ask all parties to respect that decision. Yes, this can be uncomfortable. And yes, feelings may still be hurt. But whenever possible, seek to reach an amicable resolution and explain that to all parties. You’re not picking favorites; you’re doing what’s best for your church.
- Before leaving the meeting, close in prayer and include everyone in the room. This is important for two reasons:
- God can create peace where there was none before. Allow Him to continue to work through the situation.
- You’re acknowledging to those present that you are doing what you feel is best under God’s prompting. You’ve done what you can. Allow God to do the rest.
No one wants to be seen as the bad guy. But in your role, it’s sometimes necessary to make uncomfortable decisions.
On the bright side, if you are proactive when conflict does arise, instead of running from it, you will gain a great deal of respect from your entire congregation. This deep level of respect will allow you to lead them into deeper relationship with God, themselves, and others.